The Papervan

Practice writing scenes in detail

The LED lights danced above Selena’s head as the truck bounced its way along the Tampines Expressway. At night, the freeway snaked along quietly, with tropical barren plains protecting it on each side. Only the warm orange glow from the lamp posts that stood like concrete guardians lit up the night from the centre.

Selena’s astigmatism made the headlights from oncoming cars all the more blurrer. The ride was completely out of focus. Inside the truck, it was even darker. The blue LED lights danced above three dark heads, like partygoers in a limousine.

“This is Ian,” Alicia introduced her cousin. “But everyone calls him Mitchy.”

“Hi Ian,” she said from across the seat. “I’m Selena.”

The three sat stretched across the front seat like a happy family. Both girls were in their late-20s; Mitchy was a little younger, in his early 20s.

“I’m sorry,” Mitchy began. “I’m sure this isn’t what you were expecting when I said I was coming to pick you girls up.”

“Oh no, no, it’s all right. I don’t mind it at all,” Selena replied, even though her foot had gotten stuck by the door as she struggled to climb onto her seat after her friend.

“I’d already warn her before,” Alicia said. “I kept saying that this was a lorry ok, not a car.”

A Mother Mary prayer card lay strewn on the dashboard. Neatly laminated, it faced the road and reflected the intermittent headlights from oncoming cars, giving it an ethereal and otherworldly feel. Selena liked the way it seemed haplessly arranged, the way it looked spontaneous. Is this what effortless chic means in Parisian fashion, she thought to herself.

“Are you still on your paper rounds or have you finished work?” she asked.

“No, I’m done,” Mitchy said. “I finished at ten and I was on my way back.”

Selena had never been in a papervan, nor any type of work van for that matter. She always dreamt of hopping into one, simply because it was so unorthodox and so undesirable. She imagined climbing into one right in the middle of the swanky central business district where she worked, the same way she had seen the Malay girls climb awkwardly onto their boyfriend’s motorbikes in their baju kurung.

Someday, she thought to herself, someday. I’ll rock up in my black heels, A-line skirt and office shirt and get into a chicken van. It would preferably be a boyfriend’s, better stilll a husband’s. A father or a brother would make her the daughter of the chicken meat man. No, no, she thought. Better to be married to one than to be born of one; the former a conscious choice, the latter, a badly-dealt hand from God.

“Alicia would never let me pick her up from school in this thing,” Mitchy said. His small frame held onto the stirring wheel, which looked enormous in his skinny hands. His tanned skin was made to look darker in the night, and Selena could barely make out the features of his face, except the silhouette of a mop of curly hair that covered his head.

“Yeah, I tell him to park a few blocks away. I don’t want the kids at school seeing me hop into this truck, or they’ll tease me for life.”

“I don’t mind it,” Selena said. “Every girl has a lorry dream.”


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