The following article discusses topics of a sensitive nature which may be disturbing and/or controversial to some readers. Hence, reader discretion is advised. The views, thoughts, and opinions expressed in the article belong solely to the authors and do not reflect Sunway University and Sunway College’s values.
Content warning: Mentions of accidents, depression, suicide, and contains possibly triggering language.
“I friggin’ love PB&J, man,” Mary Ann proclaimed. Oshin peered at her through grainy, 240p video.
“Finger-lickin’ good, bitch!” He laughed and alt-tabbed, away from Discord and back to the homework he should have been focusing on. The words were there, alright, but simply not making any sense. He was tempted to close the page, to just procrastinate, fingers twitching over the mouse, but his friend’s steady presence had him hesitating. Right, the work. The homework–the preparation for the in-class debate, an easy 15% of his grade. He stared at the blank Google Doc, question neatly printed in italics.
It wasn’t that hard. Ethics. Debates. LGBTQIA rights. Should transitioning to a different gender be legal in your country? He read the words once more, one word at a time. L-G-B-T-Q-I-A-rights. Should transgender people exist in your country?
What a thought, he mused. Should they?
Mary Ann hummed, breathy, really off-key. He looked at the question, panic welling in his chest. It wasn’t hard. He enjoyed debating. He was intimately familiar with this question. It wasn’t hard. Somehow, in some stupid way, his brain seemed to skip over the words, over and over. He read the question again.
He remembered reading somewhere that when your brain gets stuck on a specific train of thought; say, on the wrong word you’re trying to remember, rather than finding the correct word, it digs itself into a hole the harder you think about it. The solution, clearly, would be a quick break. He sighed. Great advice, obviously, if it wasn’t ass o’clock in the morning and if the debate wasn’t 8 o’clock in the morning. Why’d he procrastinated on doing this? Why wasn’t he focusing?
It’s due tomorrow, a voice in his head sang. It’s tomorrow! Tomorrow! Tomorrow!
He checked the time. 2:47 am. If he had to leave by 7 to get to campus by 7:30 to buy a coffee before class at 7:35 to get to class by 7:45 to get settled by 7:55—he would have to wake up at 6:30 to get ready for school.
He did the math in his head–he’d have three hours of sleep if he finished by 3:30 am.
Fuck. It wasn’t okay.
“Mary Ann,” He said, pushing away from his chair.
“Oshinging,” she replied, deadpan. Oshinging is new.
“I’m going to go to sleep.” Closing the tabs, opening Discord, ending the stream. He’d come back to it later. For sure.
“Already?” She sounded surprised. “Isn’t it, like, um…oh, yeah. It is late. Are you done, though?”
“Nearly,” he lied through his teeth. “I’ll finish up whatever tomorrow. I’m super tired.”
Mary Ann held the same, inscrutable expression as always. She stared him down, seemingly thinking it over. Or thinking of how to get out of the call as fast as possible–unlikely, but possible. Eventually, she nodded goodbye, wishing him luck, and they hung up. He sighed, slouching into his seat. So much for body doubling helping with assignments. He hadn’t done shit.
He shut down his laptop, staring at the little spinning dots as it auto-updated instead. He should come back to work on this, probably, maybe. 15% of the grade. Easy, easy scores. He thought of his parents, of the subject he was failing, of his average GPA. He thought of Mary Ann, wanting to get rid of him as fast as possible—and the guilt that came with thinking his best friend disliked him. The haunting, stupidly doable question rang in his head, black on white like an optical illusion. He thought of his classmates tomorrow, glaring at him as he got destroyed by the opposing debater, wholly unprepared. Only the first speaker, and still this useless.
He was breathing a little too fast, a little too little.
It was a little too much.
Little white dots spinning away, he tugged off his binder, throwing it into a corner of his bed. Headphones–around his neck. Phone–barely charged. He rummaged for his hoodie through the pile of clothes in his closet. It’d take seconds to sort, he thought, and didn’t do it anyway. Leaving the room, he shut the door as quietly as he could, trying not to wake his roommate. Slipping into his running shoes, he raced down the stairs, the noise of it echoing into the still air. His heart skipped along, erratic and loud.
He shot past the security booth, squeezing past the gate, head down in shame. Not even a hello, a voice chided. How rude. Shoes slapping against tarmac, he ran and ran. He was never a good runner, and he found himself short of breath quickly, but his feet kept moving–like a dream with infinite possibilities, where he knew how to parkour.
It was nothing like that, obviously, but it felt good. His headphones bounced, one side up, one side down, and the wind brushed his bare legs. Maybe he’d get blisters, but in the cool night air, it felt–alright. Things might be okay. He would get home, finish up as much as he could, and head to bed.
Stopping, he gasped for breath, sweat cold against his back. The hoodie stuck to him, an unpleasant combination of sweaty and cold. He pulled his phone out, Bluetooth connecting to his headphones, setting up his playlist.
Tired of the ads? You deserve to listen to music…
He huffed, part frustrated and part amused. The audacity of these ads. Rounding the corner, he felt a little better about himself already–maybe he could stop by the convenience store on the way home. Nothing better than sugary energy drinks to cheer someone up.
Yeah, a Monster sounded good.
Yeah. He was alright. It was just an assignment, and he was no stranger to rushing things at the last minute. He would be fine.
Oh, a crack in the pavement.
He tripped spectacularly, hands shooting out to brace himself. He landed hard on his wrist and knees. Pain shot through him, sharp, all-consuming, blinding.
Disoriented, he heard the rumble of a very large engine. To his horror, it belonged to a very large truck with bright headlights, charging right at him. He wasn’t even on the road, how–
There was a screech, brakes drawn too fast, too late. He scrambled to his feet.
They say your life flashes before your eyes, seconds from death.
Holy fuck. I can’t fucking move! Made up the majority of his thoughts. Fuck. I didn’t even tell anyone I loved them, or that it was an accident, came quickly after. I’m so fucking sorry, was his last thought.
And, notably, I’m dying like an anime girl?
An incredible collision.
Very quickly, he felt nothing, and there was–
It was a void of emotion, of sound, of thought, of anything at all.
Then, like he was hit by a truck again, sensations and feelings and sound came crashing back into reality.
He jerked back into his seat with a yell, the shitty chair toppling over. He fell on his ass, the chair crashing down behind him, headphones yanked out of his laptop. That, too, very nearly came falling on him, instead sitting precariously on the edge of the table.
Mary Ann’s voice came clear and very alarmed, as Oshin lay groaning, adrenaline shooting through him, heart thumping out of his chest. What the fuck? His tailbone throbbed, chair jabbing uncomfortably into his back.
Before he could gather his bearings, someone knocked on his door, pushing it open after a moment.
“You okay?” His roommate. Nick squinted at him, eyes puffy, reminiscent of someone who actually slept in the middle of the night. Ah. He’d woken him.
“Yeah. I, uh, fell. All good though. Sorry for waking you.” The words came on autopilot. Nick sighed, stepping in to pull him up.
“Hello? Oshin? You okay?” Mary Ann. Oshin nodded, realized she couldn’t see him, then gave the laptop a thumbs up. Nick left quickly, giving him a squeeze on the shoulder and a muttered you should get some rest.
“I’m okay,” he muttered, rubbing his sore back. His mind was racing. “Did I, like, fall asleep?”
“I dunno. I wasn’t watching you.” Back in his seat, he straightened his laptop, plugging his headphones back in. Helpful, great, thanks, he wanted to spit, but it wasn’t her fault. He held his tongue, checking the time.
He sat in contemplative silence, Mary Ann in I’ll-just-wait-til-you-let-me-know-what-happened silence.
“I had a fucked dream,” he said, quiet. “I got hit by a truck.”
She whistled. “Damn. Like an isekai?”
“Exactly like an isekai,” he squeezed his eyes shut, a ghastly afterimage of the headlights burnt into his eyelids. “Really weird. What does it mean to dream about getting hit by a truck?”
“Maybe it means that you’ll be the protagonist of an anime where you’re transported into a fantasy world as a result of your short, tragic life in the real world.”
Mary Ann laughed. Oshin sighed with her, attempting a chuckle. The memory of it was far too raw, too…real.
He shook it off and tried to do his homework. It went better now, a clearer mind after the nap. He was working through a point in his speech when he heard the soft clink of ceramic, a plate set down. He paid it no mind, background noise among the constant light static that came with Mary Ann’s audio. British WiFi, or something.
His eyes flicked to the digital clock at the bottom of his screen.
2:40 am. God, it was late, but–
“I friggin’ love PB&J, man,” Mary Ann said.
“R-really.” It came to him, instinctual, but his voice wavered.
“Finger-lickin’ good, bitch!” Mary Ann laughed, and Oshin just about managed a weak chuckle, beginning to panic. Was his imagination that good? Wasn’t this all a little too on the nose?
A few minutes passed.
“Mary Ann,” He started, pushing away from his chair.
“Oshinging,” she replied, monotone. Oshinging???
“I’m going to go to sleep.” Straight to Discord, straight to watching Mary Ann’s reaction.
“Already?” Surprised. “Isn’t it, like, um…oh, yeah. It is late. Are you done, though?”
He swallowed. “I’ll touch up tomorrow.”
He watched her face light up, literally, as she checked his stream. Google Docs, filled with dot-points. She gave him a thumbs up. She wished him luck, hung up, and Oshin was left in silence, the buzzing ambience gone.
He woke up on time, dragging his feet all the way. Nick, the sicko, got up at 5 am every day to jog, and was making himself breakfast when Oshin got to the kitchen. He had a good (three and a half hours) rest, the weird dream nothing more than a memory.
“Hey–don’t take the road to the convenience store,” Nick said, stirring his oatmeal.
“A truck crashed last night. Slammed into the side rail–I took a pic.”
“Oh.” Something was off. “See?”
Nick pulled his phone out, swiping in his password. Oshin watched, careful to keep his face neutral, in contrast to the mounting sense of dread in his chest.
“Here. It looks like shit, but the driver’s not dead, apparently.”
“Christ.” In the centre of a ring of other cars, red and blue light gave the scene an otherworldly, eerie quality over the entire image. Oshin stared at the truck, a quarter of it hanging over the edge of the drain, metal side rail punched out. The angle didn’t show the front of the truck, but his imagination filled it in nicely enough. “That’s–that’s really bad.”
“Right? It’s a miracle it wasn’t worse,” Nick shrugged, laying his phone on the table. “Anyway, good luck with your presentation. I’ve got this shit-ass assignment due at 8…”
Oshin nodded along, feeling–for the third time–like he was hit by a truck.
All things considered, Oshin was not exactly suicidal. He didn’t want to die, but, when the situation was dire…
Would it be egotistical to truly believe he held power over time itself?
A few traumatising months later, Oshin had died almost every other week, and not even by his own hand on most occasions. On the bright side, it had effectively gotten rid of any dredges of suicidal ideation he’d previously held; on the downside, he genuinely didn’t enjoy death.
Had he literally killed himself to ace a test? Yes. Did he regret it? Yes. Was that because he technically broke his academic integrity pledge? Also, yes.
He’d found, instead, new pleasure and freedom in the knowledge that nothing mattered too much. No incident was truly life-changing unless it literally was, in which case, he could easily turn back time to reverse the damage caused. He always returned at midnight, sharp.
He was happier, genuinely, and things were going pretty great for him–deaths aside.
He dried another dish with a cloth, setting it on the counter. Dinner for two; just him, his mom, and no boyfriend. More often than not had he wondered if it was cruel of him to leave her alone in the apartment. Sure, their aunts came over most nights and she was content–wasn’t begging him to stay, teased him about her finally having her own freedom too, but sometimes…it crossed his mind.
Sliding open the door from the kitchen, his mom walked to the table, setting down a wok full of pasta with a thunk. It looked good. It was a recipe he’d shown her, actually, and it sat centre among the fish, the potatoes, the keropok she had fried with the leftover oil.
It was a little too much food, no doubt for him to take home in Tupperwares later.
“Looks good to you, chef?”
Oshin took an exaggerated sniff, and pretended to think it over.
“Smells alright. Nothing burnt, I think.”
“Thank you, ma’am.” His mom laughed, and he laughed with her.
They sat down to eat, his mom talking about her life, telling him about the neighbours, the new supermarket that opened right under the apartment.
Hyping himself up a little, he popped the question during a lull in the conversation.
“Hey, mom? I need to tell you something.”
His mom set down her fork, a worried crease appearing between her brows.
“Did something happen at school?”
“No…” He felt like a kid all of a sudden, getting in trouble at school. Nothing too bad, nothing too minor. “I just… need to let you know about something. Please just… listen.”
“Okay.” she pursed her lips, straightened her expression.
“I’m transgender,” he said, pausing. His mom’s expression was blank. “I’ve been for a while, but now that I’ve… moved out, and stuff, I thought I should tell you. That I’m a guy. A boy.”
“You’re a boy?” Her eyebrows drew closer.
“But you’re born a girl,” she said, and Oshin felt his heart sink a little. “Are you joking?”
Oshin stared at her. Was he joking? Was he?
He thought it over.
“Yes. I saw people doing it online.”
His mom sighed, relieved, a smile spreading across her face. “It’s really not funny, you know,” she laughed. “You scared me.”
Sorry, he laughed back, and they finished dinner.
He set the table, a large plate, a fork, a spoon. He poured out glasses of apple juice.
His mom set down a large wok with a thunk, and they started eating.
Taking a large gulp of apple juice, he cleared his throat.
“Ma,” he started. “I need to tell you something.”
His mom set down her fork, worried.
“Do you know what transgender means?”
“No, not really,” she said.
“A transgender person is someone whose gender identity is different from the gender they were assigned at birth,” he looked at her, tried to gauge her reaction. His heart continued to beat out of its chest. “So, like, someone who is assigned male at birth, might transition to female.”
“I’m transgender,” he said, keeping his voice steady. “I…I am a boy. I would like it if you could call me your son, and if we could get my name changed properly.”
Silence, a series of emotions crossing his mother’s face, none good.
“Tell me you don’t mean it,” she begged at last, apparently settling on sadness. “Please, ______. My baby girl. I don’t believe it.”
“Okay? You don’t mean it?”
“Thank you, ______.” His mom hugged him, crying.
He wandered into the kitchen, plates and cutlery already set.
“Yes?” She said, distracted, stirring chilli flakes into the pasta.
“I need to tell you something.”
“What is it?”
His mom opened the door, smiling up at him.
“I need to tell you something.”
On the phone.
“Hey, ma. Before I come over today, I need to tell you something.”
Consciousness comes to him in fractures, splinters of memory and phantom pain dancing across his body. Cold tile and grout bring him back to his senses, fingers tracing over a blob of the silicone someone had spilled an excess of filling the space between the twenty-fifth and sixth tile, the two closest to the door. Back pressed against the door, he checked his phone. 12:00. He waited, watched it turn twelve-oh-one, two, three, four. At 12:05, he got up swaying as his vision blacked out. He waited for it to fade. It had felt wrong the first couple of times, to go about his sleeping routine, to sleep, even, and he had spent countless nights–days–huddled on the familiar off-white tile, wondering if he’d gone insane.
Now he busies himself with brushing his teeth and changing into pyjamas. He hesitated on his binder, then decided that the scolding he would receive for sleeping with it on wasn’t worth it.
There is power in hopelessness, he thinks, and he wonders if he leaves behind mangled bodies on every reset. Somewhere across universes, does he simply take on the existence of a parallel life? Surely, he has consequences like everyone else.
Over and over again, Oshin tried to come out to his mom. Over and over again, he found himself restarting the day, never quite satisfied with the outcome. He’d screamed his throat raw, she’d screamed her throat raw, he’d cried, she’d cried, they’d fought and argued. Even when he did something new, tried to set off a butterfly effect, it never worked. He’d cried over it for hours, called in sick to classes every day, and some days, he never even went to her house at all.
It was almost as though he was trapped, almost, and he rubbed at his eyes.
That wasn’t true.
He could restart.
That was all he had to do if it went wrong.
Ringing the doorbell, he put on a smile, lifting a bouquet of flowers.
He’d get it right this time. Or the next.
“Sisyphus (or Sisyphos) is a figure from Greek mythology who, as king of Corinth, is condemned by the gods for eternity to repeatedly roll a boulder up a hill only to have it roll down again once he got it to the top, as a metaphor for the individual’s persistent struggle against the essential absurdity of life.”
Written by: Crash