Excerpt / April 2018 (Issue 39)

Memories Cached

by Cameron Su

Cameron Su, Memories Cached, 2017. 302 pgs.


Chapter 1: A Series of Flashbacks | Circa Eighth Grade

The school bell heralds the end to a somewhat monotonous day. The five-second clanging lingers in my head. Students dash through the narrow door towards their lockers, causing a mini stampede.

Singapore's humidity remains hard at work again today, as always. The rolling thunder in the distance signals a possible thunderstorm. At least the storm might clear the haze caused by the burning forest fires in neighbouring Sumatra and Borneo.

My buddy Archie straddles a small planter next to his locker, signalling me to huddle. Time for another strategy session. Not exactly a troublemaker, more of an instigator, Archie eggs on his friends into actions that no mother would condone.

It's the middle school years at Singapore International School. Seven hours a day of Language Arts (English and Putonghua), Science, Math, Social Studies, PE. The same gig for all junior high schoolers worldwide, except for the additional dose of Putonghua. Spanish would be easier for those of us whose native tongue is English.

"Dominic, you know how this works," Archie smirks. "We discussed this last night on Skype, and you accepted the dare. It's only fair. You kiss your girlfriend, and I will ask out my crush."

I begrudgingly nod my head in agreement.

"The rules are simple," Archie stipulates. "The event must occur in a public space on school grounds. Timing is key. I'm sure you don't want others besides me to know about this. Classrooms and auditoriums are fine. Hallways and stairways work, but closets and basements are off-limits."

Here we go again. I feel like I'm being blackmailed, or manipulated in some way. The more Archie glares at me, the more I'm skeptical. What is behind this cajoling?

But this had to be done. Is the timing right, not to mention the venue?


I skimmed the Student Handbook when I entered Middle School, but I would have guessed that Public Displays of Affection were banned on campus. Gosh, I recall signing a slip that recorded my agreement to the rules of being a Middle Schooler.

In reality, my love-interest, Talinda Chang, had also teased me in her TBH (To Be Honest) entries on Facebook:

TL: tbh, you're pretty nice and sweet. You're also a great friend and we have been through a lot in the past. throwback to the time when we were in the same class in fifth grade. don't even remind me when Mr. Palmer flipped your desk over when you were caught disrupting the class. haha. no one face-palmed when Palmer left the school at the end of the year for his OTT action. anyways, we should definitely hang out more!

Underline the word: friend. Most of the comments in that TBH entry understated our true budding relationship, daring both of us.

Talinda had even tallied brownie points every time I did something an ordinary pubescent teenager would not do:

-lugging her books to Chinese class,

-carrying her lunch tray and

-opening the door for her and her obnoxious crew.

I had reached the first-level, 50 points, just three days earlier—enough to secure a peck on the lips.

It would be my very first kiss. Oh, what have I gotten myself into?

Too bad I mentioned hitting the 50-point threshold to Archie.


I bolt from the second floor to the amphitheatre as the immature brat continues to hound me from behind. For some odd reason, the kid's shoes are banging really loudly on the steps.

An unfamiliar teacher strolls past us, giving us somewhat suspicious looks. No after-school activities were scheduled in that part of the darkened school.

A lightning storm begins to brew in the near distance. Singapore leads the world in lightning strikes.

"Now's your chance … Whoops, sorry for announcing that too loud."

Oblivious, the teacher wanders right past, eyes again trained on her iPhone.

"That was close," Archie jokes.

I roll my eyes.

"Oh, look, there she is," Archie says, pointing at Talinda. I take a deep breath—the kind of breath wind instrument players need tackle a lengthy musical phrase—and then proceed down the stairwell.

After graduating from four square and wall ball after Upper Elementary, I rarely head down towards the open air amphitheatre. Another reason is because Lower Elementary students invaded Middle School since the start of this school year as their original campus was torn down for redevelopment. Now, bicycles, scooters and even a luxurious playground occupy a large portion of the original amphitheatre space.

As Talinda's eyes and mine lock, she shoots me a reluctant smile.

"Ya ready?" I ask Talinda as both of us go behind the pillar inside the amphitheatre, preparing for the showdown. Hope it's not a letdown.

"Sure thing."


I walk towards Talinda and realise that both of us could tangle up with our braces. I was due to have my braces removed in a month. Perhaps we should hold off. Doc Lim gave me some wax to cover my braces during clarinet practice, but I never tried it out. It would have come in handy now, though it's probably wilting in the fridge now.

Talinda appears not the least bit nervous. She must've done this before.

As it is new territory for me, I don't know what to do next. Reach out for her hand, or hands? Grab the back of her head? Should've asked Archie for advice. Not that he knows any better.

Not sure why I didn't balk, but I just strode up to Talinda and just puckered up. It was a peck that only lasted a second or so. I think I tilted my head to the right. Can't recall exactly.

Talinda's lips and mine slowly drift away from each other as we unlock our lips. Bittersweet joy mix with awkwardness after the quick smooch. At least one of us were rookies at this kind of thing.

The only kisses I know come from watching comedies and romantic movies. Mom scolded Dad when he selected one of those Will Ferrell classics. Whenever a problematic scene appeared, one of them paused the DVD while the other summoned me to the adjoining bathroom. Little did they know that I would peek through the door, as any curious child would. Who are you to judge me?

Dad picks good flicks. Mom is humourless on this subject.

The rub is that I will have to re-sit for each of those movies when I'm 17 or so.


Thank goodness our braces do not clasp together.

"Was that OK with you?" I ask, clueless as to what Talinda had felt. Her eyes appear to sparkle. We are both unsure of what had just happened. Both of us experienced a sensation that is hard to describe. Not surprisingly, she utters not a single word in response.

She's a cool cat.

She about-faces and sprints away immediately towards the awaiting buses, without saying goodbye. I guess I didn't really need a goodbye.

A first kiss was just enough to make my day.

Or was it?

After what seemed like a long minute, I just stand behind the amphitheatre, feet planted, all to myself. I just couldn't take in the sequence of events that just occurred.

Yes, who would have the courage and the nerve to do such a thing at this innocent age? The audacity to make a girlfriend tag along after school towards the back of the amphitheatre ever so secretly, and then unload a kiss? Isn't that so completely out of whack? Isn't that considered, to say the least, outrageous behaviour? Not to mention contravening the Student Handbook for an egregious PDA?

Red card, go straight to jail.

Time out. Where was Archie during the past few minutes? Did he bolt for the buses after he saw that I was heading down the stairwell? Else, did he hover from the rafters, making sure that his dare was taken up? Either way, I wouldn't discover the truth, especially after asking the kid.

I check the ceiling and the walls to make sure that absolutely no CCTV recorded the escapade. "Good," I say to myself, calmly. I turn behind, and—BAM!

I run headfirst into what I think was one of those tall, blue cushioned pillars in the amphitheatre. What appears to be the assistant principal, Mr. Samuel Sadlowski, is just a monstrous obstacle blocking my escape.

I am planked on the ground (not in the cool way), half groggy, readying myself to chase down the afternoon school buses, until I run yet again into a perfectly stiff and sweaty arm.

Indeed, Mr. Sadlowski is a reality. It now appears that I am not going to catch my bus in time. Facing Mom's grimace for being home late and having to hail a taxi are now the least of my worries.


Give me a pencil and a few boring classes and you'll likely find some doodles on my textbooks rather than actual mental work. That's probably the basis of my study habits.

In fact, you could give me three nights' worth of homework, and I still wouldn't touch it until the last minute.

My name's Savannah Dixon. I am currently an eighth grader and a rising senior in high school (I say this because it makes me feel a million times closer to college and out of parental control).

I am another one of those Facebook flamers who exaggerate our existence. Case in point:

"Student at": I'll pick my parents' 1st Choice (university rather than my actual middle school).

"Lives in": I'll select some cool city in California, such as Los Angeles.

"Works at": let's pick Google, Apple or anything Silicon Valley. Snapchat would be even better.

For a profile photo, I'll pick one that portrays me in the best light—that is, an unblemished face—even if it is from years previous.

Common theme: make me relevant by sensationalising.

That is to say, independence—ahem, college—is a million light years away. I've gotten enough solid grades in every class to be called "a smart student" but not quite a nerd. However, I am mindful that my yesteryears were my heyday. Sixth grade used to be simple enough. I would just have to read a book to get a gold star or a pencil with my name on it.


Just getting through the rigours of eighth grade is an ordeal. Thinking about the next month of my academic coursework, not to mention the uncertainty of teenage social life, is strenuous enough.

And right now, all I'm thinking about is what time it is, and how many more minutes I have to sit in this desolate room doing asinine homework, and why December and Christmas break lasted about five minutes, and what I just observed half an hour ago after school ended.

I saw a couple kiss.

Yes, that's right. Under the school amphitheatre. While all the cliques and the outsiders were wandering freely, gravitating to the buses and the school driveway where chauffeur-driven rich kids are picked up, a boy in a soccer jersey with pointy blue sneakers approached his girlfriend down there for a "smooch."

"Unreal," I thought at that precise moment, immediately taking out my smartphone for a quick video.

I suspected something was up as I saw two guys caucusing while a gal approached from the other stairwell.

I checked around to see if anyone had noticed the kissing. That pestering kid, Archie, after watching his wingman Dominic walk down the stairs to complete the deed, face-palmed himself as he whisked away from the tender scene.

I grimace at how Dominic hit on Talinda in the cafeteria just last week. Both reached for an orange drink carton simultaneously. Dominic withdrew quickly, trying to blink but only managed to move both eyes.

Much of the school was unaware an event in Singapore International School history was underway. Perhaps a story that could even make the headlines on social media, the Net in general and then shock the sovereign city-state. Then again, it would have been hilarious if the brace-faces interlinked metals with one another.

That didn't happen.

After that big moment, all I could remember was that I dashed for my life towards the buses, not leaving a single trace. And on the bus, my mind forever wandered as I fought hard to keep the secret to myself.

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