As a resident of the Nanyang constituency, I am spoilt for choice when it comes to places I can explore, but there was one place calling my name: my primary school.
At two o’clock in the afternoon, the blistering sun was stinging my skin, taunting me for being out mid-day, rather than enjoying the comforts of my air-conditioned room. A slight breeze enveloped the area, soothing the sun’s painful burns with its gentle caress, but not enough to heal them.
A concrete path lay in the middle of a grassy bed and stretched into a kilometer-long loop around a group of flats, though the strong, earthy smell of grass made me feel like I was walking through a forest rather than a residential estate.
It was quiet and serene, other than the occasional bus running its route. A sharp juxtaposition to what had been going on in my mind minutes before embarking on this walk.
After a turn around the bend, my stomach lurched. Opposite me stood the building I adored for six years. The multicoloured levels still stood strong, though they took on a duller hue than in the past, a testament to the six years that have passed since I left campus.
The atmosphere was sullener than I recalled, but that tends to be the case once you take off the rose-coloured glasses. That, and the pandemic restricting the number of children and their little cries of joy around the school zone.
I could not stop myself from taking a quick detour to the mama shop at the void deck opposite the school. It was as if time had stood still: the store maintained its dark facade, and the colourful rows of candy sat in those same yellowed acrylic boxes.
The Cadbury Chocolate Eclairs caught my eye. Still 20 cents for three. It was something that had always excited my 10-year-old self. The purple and gold wrappers were glistening in the jar, and I could not resist its siren call.
With e-payment, coins have become a rare existence in my 18-year-old self’s purse. The rustling of notes and soft clacking of debit cards with no sign of coins caused the shopkeeper’s grey brows to furrow, accentuating her wrinkles on her liver-spotted face.
A low grunt escaped from behind her mask as she tapped a single nail on the acrylic countertop impatiently, creating an anxiety-inducing ticking. She was a bomb about to explode.
I heaved a sigh of relief as I found a 50-cent coin tucked in a corner of my purse. “Keep the change,” I muttered in Chinese as I rushed out of the shop.
As I went back en route, I popped the soft candy in my mouth. It was still the same sticky, chocolatey-caramel sweetness as I remembered, though it certainly made me happier then than it does now.
Right before making the bend back around the loop, I spotted something that broke me out of my sugary reminiscence. The giant plaque that stated the school’s name now is brighter and shinier, and it sports a new name: Pioneer Primary School.
A sinking feeling engulfed me as I realised that despite taking the same route to school that I took every day for six years, everything has changed.
Things may appear the same, but the only constant in life is change, and tis folly to believe things will always be the same. Sometimes, all we can do is embrace the change, and hold on to the memories. This walk jolted many of them.