Garden City


I have been given another assignment for school, this time to write a flash fiction based on any aspect of this country. But the cursor wants to play whack-a-mole again, disappearing and reappearing on the blank sheet that only reflects my state of mind. So I take to the streets.

I walk across an overhead bridge, eyes scanning my surroundings for some form of inspiration. Maybe this could be of use: The translucent plumes of Bougainvillea droop from the balcony of the bridge, clouds of magenta moving with the wind of the vehicles beneath it. I try to dig deeper – but am unable to trace the origins of this flower to anything but the human hand, strategically planting it here and in other balconies of overhead bridges in the country, cursing it to sway only to the music of the road. Any stray flower, blooming where it was not planned to, is mowed to waxy shreds.

How about this: a man sits on a stool plucking the strings of his guitar. The man’s voice, bouncing against the corridor walls of the MRT station, is clear and full, despite his head of grey. Yet even he needed a licence to open his guitar case to the tossing of coins.

I try to find inspiration from the river that runs through our city, the tissue packets on the seats of our hawker centres. But the lack of anything authentic is only increasing my frustration. My eyes frantically grab, desperate for something concrete. I yearn for the sharp, uneven gasps of a flickering street lamp, the dash and scratch of a rodent across a street, for a departure, even if only momentary, from this constancy.

Yet I see nothing but the products of this country’s effort, to achieve complete control and therefore idealistic perfection of this garden city.

So, this is why we don’t call ourselves ‘Gaia city’ or ‘city of nature’. Naming ourselves after the very beginning would be saying that our city was formed of catalysts rather than precise calculation – when in reality, catalysts would rip the fibre of our fabricated society into thin, plastic threads. Allowing a single weed to fester or leaving the bushes untrimmed would ruin the controlled perfection that is a garden.

But this has left our island empty of what life the world has to offer. This realization leaves me numb, all hope leaving my once searching eyes, eyes that have given up looking for character in this country.

So, when I sit back down at my four blank walls and blank document and blank mind, the only thing I can write about is the fact that I lack anything to write about.

Alexandra Zagriatski (Class of 2022) is from the second batch of Literary Arts students, having studied the art form during the first four years of her SOTA experience.