Let You Down


If I could relax, I would be like the hazy smoke in the air, illuminated by the age speckled bar lights. Weaving in and out of rooms, quiet but also carefree. I would be dancing to each beat of the music blasting from the speakers, absent-minded yet deliriously happy. But in reality, nothing was like that. The smoke was more like a dense blanket that covered the private room where everyone was having fun, and I was in the corner drinking. Like my life depended on it. 

“Another glass please.” I lifted my heavy head and signalled to the bartender through the glass door. 

“Come on lah Ryan! Look at all these women! Have some fun! What are you doing sitting at the corner?” Boon Seng called, surrounded by bottles of wine, and women who resembled cutouts of magazine models. 

 “Did you forget I have a wife?” I rolled my eyes. He was always like this. I don’t even know why I still bothered going out with him. Well. . . then again he was the only person I hung out with these days. 

“You don’t even love her lor. If you did, you would be home right now having dinner with her.” Boon Seng spat in a mocking tone, taking another giant swig from a bottle. How I wish I could take that bottle and smash it over his hollow skull. But I couldn’t. Because he was right. 

When my wife and I got together, my soul was flooded with joy. When she stepped into the room, my smile never left. When I came across a problem at work and she figured out the solution in a way I would have never tried, I could not have been prouder. When we got married and she walked in with a flowing ball gown, I thought I had never seen someone so beautiful and she was now my wife. 

A year later, we had our disagreements but got over them quickly. Two years later, she started bombarding me with texts, demanding that I told her where I was at all times. Three years later, she stopped trying to communicate with my family, constantly getting into fights with them and saying, “They were just as stubborn and dense as I was.” I was frustrated and trapped. And right now, even if the bar wasn’t the place I wished to be, it was my only getaway.

A glass of fresh cold whiskey was placed in front of me and I grabbed it, gulping down greedily. My phone buzzed for the millionth time tonight. And without another doubt, I already knew who it was.

It’s already 1 am where are you?? 

I spent so much time cooking dinner and it’s already cold. Can’t you show the least bit of appreciation? 

I told you to text me wherever you are right? You think this is a hotel where you can just walk in and out whenever you want? 

I wanted to be free. Without being tied down. But she didn’t allow it. My mind was numb and clouding up, like a never-ending fog. But it had to end. I could not keep avoiding her forever. I grabbed my computer bag and wiped my chin from all traces of alcohol that slipped my mouth. Boon Seng didn’t even question where I was going. He was already knocked out, facedown in a pool of spilt brandy. 

“Taxi!” I staggered towards the blue Comfort taxi and closed my eyes, letting the cold air conditioning envelop me. In my heart, I was dreading going home but I had nowhere else to go. 


I jerked out of my reverie to see the driver shaking his head at me. I shoved a ten-dollar bill into his hands and slammed the door close. 

The building I was living in was a ten-story HDB filled with happy memories of when we were first married. I still remembered that feeling when I collected the keys for the first time and we went shopping for furniture. Her excitement about how the house was going to look was everything to me. Everything seemed perfect and it felt like nothing could go wrong. But time proved otherwise. Love could not only grow but it could also fade. I shoved my keys into the keyhole and stepped into the small space. 

“I’m home!” I called. But everything was silent. Perplexed, I walked towards the kitchen. I thought that by now she would have already come out. The dim lights from the dining table were on. An eerie feeling settled in my mind. 

“Are you there?” 

No reply. That was when I saw it. The bowl of soup, now cold, was spilt over the tiles of the kitchen marble. The rice was toppled over, grains scattered across the table. And there she was, lying motionless on the ground, her hand over her heart, and her face whiter than snow. 

There was hardly any space in the small hospital room. But it was all I could afford. There were machines and IV bags hooked and pierced into her thin, fragile wrists. Her turquoise veins could be seen under her ghostly white skin. Her breathing tube was foggy, her lips paler than I’ve ever seen. I didn’t know what was happening to her. She was always healthy and normal. At least as far as I knew, she was. 

“Mr Liang? Can I speak to you about her condition?” The doctor knocked on the ward door. He glanced at his clipboard. “Look, she’s not doing well. Her sickness is getting worse and ╴”

“Wait… sickness?” I asked. My heart skipped a beat. 

With one eyebrow raised, he flipped a page and cleared his throat. 

“Your wife has congestive heart failure. The thing is, she came here a month ago and knew what situation she was in. But she refused treatment without explanation and unfortunately, her heart failure has reached stage four. We are doing the best we can but she… she only has a few weeks left. I’m sorry…” He said sympathetically, glancing at me for my reaction. But it came late. The only thing ringing in my mind was “What? What is going on? How come I never knew? And… how come she never told me?”

“Sir? You need to bring her belongings to the hospital by tomorrow- for her last moments. I’m…sorry for your loss.” 

Gut-wrenching terror tore through my heart. I never thought it would hit me that hard. All those times I was out drinking, she was cleaning, cooking, and managing her sickness. When we were married, I thought to myself daily that I would never get tired of her. But I did. And the moment I did, I was going to lose her. Tears blinded my eyes and pain pierced my heart like small needles. What hurt me the most was the pain that she must have felt. The pain because of all the effort and care she put in for me. Sure she was domineering, but at least she cared. I never did. 

I opened my eyes to the sound of beeping and I looked at her motionless frail body. Every beep sounded like one second closer to losing her. The people sitting outside the hospital rooms looked when the tray of admission forms clattered to the ground. Their stares felt like knives penetrating into my body. Every gush of cold air felt like someone was leaning on me. No… crushing me. 

They say that you never realise how much someone means to you, until you lose them. It proved to be true. For me, at least.

Stacks of worn-out shirts, faded jewels on accessories, a waterfall of tea-length dresses. Everything cramped into a small cabinet that she called her wardrobe. A slip of sunshine yellow caught my eye. It was the only brightness in the room. I pulled out the dress and a swirl of emotions hit me. It was her honeymoon dress. A brown book tumbled out of the dress that was wrapped in a thin, dirty dust jacket. It seemed to have been folded inside the dress. I picked up the flimsy book and opened it. A cloud of dust rose to greet my face but what caught my attention was the engraving inside. 

(Property of Sarah Liang) 

It was hers. 

But what was written inside, broke me. 

June 12, 2014 

Today was our honeymoon. I’m so lucky to be married to him. 

February 14, 2016

He didn’t come home for Valentine’s day. But he told me he was busy at work.

June 2, 2018

He forgot my birthday. 

September 27, 2019 

I started coughing blood today. Went to see the doctor. They told me I was dying. 

January 23, 2020 

I don’t have much time left. Today, Ryan’s creditors came. I didn’t know he borrowed money but I paid for him. I don’t have the money to pay for my treatment anymore but I don’t really mind lah. People die in the end, right? It’s no big deal.

January 25, 2020

I don’t think he loves me anymore. What went wrong? I don’t know. Maybe it was something I did. 

My heart was pounding in my ears and it felt like bricks were falling on me. Over and over. The tiredness that began a while ago remained like a veil over my skin, grey and cold.

She knew. 

She knew I was in debt.

But she still helped me.

And yet I didn’t care. 

The guilt was overpowering and I couldn’t forget it. I had to do something. 

The stench of medicine wafted in the air. I caught a glimpse of my reflection on a metal tray. My cheekbones were sunken, hair wild. My eyes were dark circles staring out in fear, as it hit me over and over. She was dying. But not if I could do something about it. 

“Mr Liang? Can I help you?” The doctor approached me as I looked into the room that she was lying in. 

“I want to donate my heart to her.” 

He grew wild. “What? To your wife? But… the procedure is long and- and complicated. Donations have to be certain- and forever. Once you donate your heart- there’s no coming back for you…” 

 I looked into his eyes, half-crazed and full of desperation. “I want to do this. Please. You have to make it happen.”

 I looked at her lying there and my heart shattered into a million pieces. After all the things she did for me, this was the least I could do for her.

For my wife.  

 “Are you ready?” The doctor questioned. I nodded, handing over my spectacles to the nurse. There was no going back from here. I lay on the stone-cold hospital bed and stared up at the old peeling walls of the hospital. 

There were occasional bumps on the floor that the bed wheeled along. Towards the sign that said “operating theatre.” My gown was rolled up, needles injecting into my skin. The flashing lights from above me shone into my eyes. I closed them. 

“Ready?” He asked. 

“Ready.” I felt the rubber straps of the anaesthesia mask on my face and counted down.                                                                                                                                                                                                        


Dear, I’m sorry for everything. 


I won’t let you down again. 


I… love you.

Nicole Soong (Class of 2024) picked this short story because it was written out of her comfort zone due to the less relatable age gap, but turned out to be one of her favourite stories.