So we did another writing exercise for class. We were playing with POV this time – first persson, third person etc. The exercise was to tell someone else in the class about a neighbour we had, and listening to their story in turn. Then we’d go away to write a story about the neighbour we’d just heard about. My attempt, to tell the story of Rebecca’s neighbour (whom she hardly ever sees and has never spoken to, so this is all made up.)
The car had belonged to the old man. It was a Nissan Sunny, bought back in a year when Nissan was content to be seen as that plain and reliable friend you had, the one who could be relied on to get enough sleep and file all their taxes on time. It was a particularly ugly shade of green. The old man had personally handpicked it from the lineup of muddy coloured squares in the showroom.
His mother used to nag him about it. The car, you haven’t washed it yet, right? The engine oil needs to be changed, must send for inspection soon, right? The car, it hasn’t been moved in a long time, right? And he would nod, nod, nod, take the car out for short drives like a pet dog, water it with the hose along with the drooping plants that passed for a garden in their house. He used to wonder why they didn’t sell it after his father died. After all, it was his father’s car. Maybe no-one wanted to buy it.
These days the car sits silent in the driveway, collecting a coat of dust for itself. He doubts he can move it anymore, the wheels sagging over spotty rims one sharp kick away from crumbling. He can see its silhouette where he sits in the darkened living room, slowly breathing air circulated by an uninterested ceiling fan, where the TV yammers on and on with its constant stream of light and sound. He imagines the unkempt garden growing up around the car, tendrils of grass pulling it into an embrace until it vanishes into the foundations of the house.
And then we had to write the same story from another character’s perspective. I chose a different point of view for this one, as well.
The house opposite is always very quiet. Other houses on this road, they always have people coming in and out. But this house nobody visits. Not even during Chinese New Year. Ma’am says that last time, when the old man was still around, people would still come, his nephews or something like that. But now, nobody. When I started working here, there was the old woman and her son, but then the old woman died. That’s what my ma’am says. Very strange, you know — there was no funeral. But you don’t see the old woman around any more, so I think she died. Then the son never leaves the house. I think he has no job. Last time, he will still take the car out, but now, no more. No wife, no girlfriend, I think his life is very sad. I don’t know why he doesn’t sell his house and buy a HDB flat. His house is so big, it’s too big for only one person– if it’s me, I will go crazy.