All screencaps from Confessions (2010).
We all knew it was going to happen one day.
The birth rate of Singapore kept skydiving, until finally, it just became economically irresponsible to keep more than one Junior College open.
2070 marked the very last year where Singapore had more than one JC. After a final round of JC mergers, the Ministry of Education announced that all qualified students would earn a spot in the last JC in Singapore.
The six Ministers for Education conferred with a carefully-selected group of the country’s best minds in a private, closed-room symposium. They decided on a new name, one which would both pay tribute to Singapore’s world-class airports, as well as commemorate this last JC’s final status.
And so, in 2071, all qualified students begin their first year in Terminal Junior College.
My name is Melody. My parents gave me that name, because they like music.
I am just like any other teenager, I suppose, but there are so few of us left now, it’s difficult to even conceive of the idea of a “typical teenager”.
I usually try my best to live up to my elders’ preconceptions of what I’m supposed to like, how I’m supposed to behave, and who I’m supposed to be.
My room is plastered with homoerotic posters of a Reunified Korean boy band, and sometimes, I wear bright red lipstick together with my school uniform. When I hear a random older person “tsk” as I walk past them, I feel a sense of satisfaction and relief. No one likes letting other people down.
But you didn’t come here to read about me. You’ve come here to read about my first day, in the last JC in Singapore.
First-year JC students usually start school after Chinese New Year. In 2071, we celebrate the Year of the Dragon.
I’ve heard that in the past, there used to be twelve different animals that each represented one Year in the Chinese Zodiac. There was a Year of the Dog, a Year of the Cat, and even a Year of the Merlion.
But the government figured out superstitious Chinese parents prefer to have children born in the Year of the Dragon, which is considered the most auspicious. In a strategic and forward-thinking bid to bolster our fertility rate, they changed every year to the Year of the Dragon.
I don’t know how true this is. Ever since I can remember, it has always been the Year of The Dragon. A Year of the Dog sounds very weird to me.
It is just after Chinese New Year, and I step onto the grounds of Terminal Junior College, feeling a mixture of pride, trepidation, excitement, and underneath it all, guilt.
I had been the only person from my old school to qualify for Terminal JC, and there was definitely a sense of resentment and exclusion from my former classmates, as they selected which poly they wanted to go to, and talked about what plans they were going to make, all of which now seems a world away from me.
My best friend, Rubella, still hasn’t spoken to me after I decided to listen to my parents and not follow her to Riverdale Poly. I understand that she feels betrayed, but I wish she had spent more time and energy studying for exams, instead of volunteering to give free vaccinations to the underprivileged.
But what’s done is done, and now Rubella is where she deserves to be, as am I.
So I walk into the classroom, take a seat in the front, and slide off the Louis Vuitton canvas top backpack I had earned from my parents for getting into JC.
After a while, it becomes apparent that every other student in the class has been waiting for me. They’ve all stopped talking amongst themselves. I start to feel a little self-conscious.
So I turn around and smile shyly. “I’m sorry, I had no idea I was late.”
“You’re not late, you just happened to be the last one to come in,” a guy with ambiguously pan-Asian good looks smiles at me. “Hi, I’m Caleb. You must be Melody.”
“Does everyone know each other’s names already?” I exclaim in astonishment.
“Oh… well. See. Er…” Caleb is very cute, when he is flustered.
“There is a class sheet, and we all signed off on it, except you,” another guy jumps in. He is a tall, really quite strikingly attractive Indian, who offers me his hand. “I’m Shivram.”
As I shake Shivram’s perfectly-sized hand, I cannot help but notice how bulging his biceps are. And how evenly his fingernails have been filed. I try to distract myself by looking around the class, and it becomes blindingly obvious that I am the only female student.
In fact, not only is everyone else in here with me male, they are all breathtakingly handsome. I can almost feel my eyeballs burning from all the handsomeness in this classroom.
I know I might regret asking this, but I do it anyway. “Am I in the right class? Is this P.E.?”
“Oh, you’re definitely in the right class,” Shivram assures me. “Because there’s only one class in Terminal JC.”
“What the– How many students are there?”
“30,” Shivram replies.
“Why don’t they split us into smaller class sizes?!”
“The class size is always 30,” Caleb explains. “They did a study long ago, and found out the most financially sensible class size is 30. It’s been 30 ever since.”
“That’s just–” I take in a deep breath, exhale, and ask as calmly as I can. “Why am I the only girl here?”
Everyone else is pretending not to hear me. Caleb and Shivram exchange a worried glance. Shivram mutters, “We were hoping you wouldn’t notice that…”
“How on earth could I not notice that?!” I almost scream at him.
“Because we’re all very handsome?” Caleb suggests.
I glare at him. “Do you think I’m stupid?! That only makes me notice it more!”
“Alright, alright,” Caleb puts his hand on my shoulder, and rubs it reassuringly. “Take a deep breath. You’re amongst friends here.”
Despite my anger and confusion, I cannot help but be flattered at the attention of a gorgeous guy, as well as the thought of –
“I just can’t believe I’m the only girl in Singapore who qualified for JC…” I mumble, almost to myself.
“Oh, you’re not the only girl who qualified for JC,” Shivram cheerfully announces. “You’re the only person who qualified for JC, period.”
The whole classroom gasps.
Shivram widens his beautiful, long-lashed eyes, and puts one of his perfectly-manicured hands over his perfectly-pouty-lipped mouth. “I… I don’t think I was supposed to say that yet.”
There is a lot of information to process, but eventually I manage to ask, “If I’m the only person who qualified for JC… who are all of you?”
No one is giving me any eye contact at this point. But finally, Caleb responds, “Models. Actors. Good-looking JC teachers, who have nobody left to teach. And of course, some of us are just very attractive NSmen. They refer to us as your co-learners.”
There is a long, awkward pause, then he points to a hot, bald, Chinese-looking guy in the back. “Karma just won the latest cycle of Tibet’s Next Top Monk.”
Karma waves at me. I ignore him, and turn to Caleb.
“Are you trying to tell me… that instead of expanding the JC intake to include more students… the Ministry of Education filled up its only class with 29 male models, because each class size has to be 30 people?”
“Yes!” Caleb smiles, clearly relieved that I am getting it.
“Why wouldn’t they just let more students in?!”
“They didn’t qualify, Melody. You did,” Shivram chimes in. “We have to maintain certain academic standards. This is a JC, after all. And honestly, we put a lot of effort into selecting your co-learners. We’re doing all this to make you happy. You should be flattered.”
“And what if I’m a lesbian?!”
Caleb clucks at me disapprovingly. “Then it’s just a phase. Singapore cannot afford for its only JC student to be a lesbian. If you’re a lesbian, we’re here to help you with that, until you stop being a lesbian. And, honestly? I think you’re too pretty to be a lesbian.”
“I just–” I stop abruptly. Why am I trying to reason with a male model/actor/former JC teacher/studly NSman/hot monk, who has never even met a lesbian?
“I need some time to deal with all this,” I finally say to Caleb, Shivram, and the rest of my co-learners. “I’m going to step outside, and gather my thoughts. Class won’t start without me, right?”
“Of course not!” Shivram laughs, reassured and reassuring.
“Take as long as you need,” Caleb beams. “We know it’s a lot to handle in a short period of time.”
“Thank you. I’ll see you all later,” I shoot over my shoulder, as I stalk out of the class.
When I can no longer smell an entire classroom worth of men’s cologne, I start running. When I hear hunky shouts of male alarm, I break into an all-out sprint.
I dash out of the school gates, and I don’t stop until I can no longer hear “Melody! Stop!” from all 29 members of the harem of men I had been almost forcibly gifted from getting good grades.
I will miss my Louis Vuitton canvas top backpack, but my parents would have taken it away from me anyway, once they find out I ran away from school.
And everything inside the backpack was JC syllabus stuff. Where I’m going, I’m not going to need it.