The handsome teenage boy – if I recall correctly, a popular Kids Central artiste named Zack or something. I had often heard my shallow female classmates enthusing and drooling over his photo – smiled lustfully, and exchanged an inviting look with an equally good-looking female, who closed her eyes, puckered her lips. Zack puckered his lips in kind, and moved in on her –
But an enormous red “X” appeared on the screen, and a small cartoonish sheepdog appeared on the screen. It looked affronted – as affronted as a cartoon figure could look, anyway – and crossed its forelegs. “Tip Number Six: When you are below the age of 21, do not exchange kisses with anyone of the opposite gender…” The said sheepdog proceeded to dismiss pre-marital kissing as an utterly immoral and shameless act. Like it was my fault anyway.
Yes, this was my punishment. The form teacher had apprehended us in her office, and I had remained tight-lipped as Elaine proudly made up stories about our “blossoming relationship”. According to Elaine, we had met up with each other outside school countless times, and even kissed twelve times. I suppose the gormless Elaine thought that kissing was physically the peak of a relationship, and I had not the moxie to tell her otherwise – she had enough immoral ideas in that porky head of hers, as it were. The form teacher, as soft-hearted as the first day we had met her, decided not to punish us, but let us watch three hours of sex education videos in the library, in separate rooms. I’d rather she had made us write lines, or give her an apple (I would have asked the family to send her a hamper of apples if she had requested for it, such was my desperation) or other menial tasks. The sex education videos were torture, especially the ‘new syllabus’. In an attempt at making these videos appeal to primary school children, the videomakers had introduced Celibate Colly, the sheepdog, who now took the place of the narrator in reciting moral values. Celibate Colly had an irritating droning dog-like voice which reminded me of Elaine, and it had a painful grimace on at times, making me wonder if it had previously been neutered. Thus, after the three hours, I stumbled out of Library Activities Room 3, glad to have survived.
Elaine was already outside my room, waiting for me. “Perhaps the female videos were shorter,” she said, trying to make conversation with the selfsame classmate whose modesty she had just outraged.
“Shut up.” I was past niceties with this girl. I cast a sideway glance on her bulky shadow, and every inch of the normally rational me was itching to kill her, or worse. I was thinking about my massive ant farm at home. I heard Elaine hated ants. I would invite her to my house one day.
“I’m sorry, Essy! I didn’t mean – didn’t know -” she dribbled as fast as she could, which wasn’t very fast. “I mean, the teacher asked and I was nervous -”
“Go tell our teacher that we’re both done with the videos. I’ve got to go home and look after Stamford, pronto.”
This was true, for although there were always two servants at home catering to Stamford’s every whim and fancy, Mother had instructed me to take care of “Stamford-sweetie” this afternoon. I doubted even all three of us would be able to handle him.
I never talk about my family if I can avoid it. On the whole, my family seems pretty normal, two rich parents and this brilliant student (pardon this lapse of modesty), and I don’t do much to correct this impression. As a result, few people know that I have a brother.
I was born early in 1992, when my parents were in their late forties, by then satisfied enough with their respective careers to consider making a family. I was, fortunately, a boy, and my parents had initially intended to stop at me, especially as I showed signs of prodigy after the age of one, which meant that I would be more than capable of carrying over the family business from my father. They left nothing to chance. After my mother gave birth to me, they stopped having sexual intercourse.
However, their resolve was broken down on Valentine’s Day, 1994, as my mother likes to recount to me. I was then two, in the care of an aunt whom I can’t remember. My parents had gone and attended some function, and must have reached home hot and drunk, because two months to that day, my mother declared herself pregnant in front of a stunned husband.
The lesson was most probably learnt from that day on, because no more Valentine nights were spent in such a wild and unrestrained manner, and thus I had no more new siblings. But the damage was done – Stamford Chee Cheng Ji would forever remain a testament to that wild Valentine’s night that my parents had spent in 1994.
Stamford was nothing like me, and my parents could see that. While I had spent the better part of my childhood reading encyclopedias, Stamford would sit on the ground, staring blankly in front of him. I started stringing coherent sentences together when I was two and a half. Stamford started talking at seven, and to this day he speaks with a stutter and using simple words, if at all. Father began to give up any hope of Stamford running the company with me in the future, and I could see he was sorely ashamed of his younger son. And that must be why he never bothered to have any more children. He probably didn’t dare trying for another child when he realised that Stamford was ‘intellectually disabled’.
There was no love lost between Stamford and I. I never did like another person competing for my parents’ affections, and when I found out that he wasn’t even worthy of their attention, I started hating him. Stamford always respected me, regarded me as his good clever brother, the way he looked up to me, but I would have none of it. Mother, the only person in the family who still regarded Stamford highly, could see this hatred I had, and, in a desperate bid to mend the relationship, ordered that I go home today to babysit Stamford, hoping that I would ‘find the loveable side’ of Stamford through this experience.
Loveable side, my foot. I knew I was going to have trouble. And I knew just who the trouble would be.