Ang Mo Kio Avenue 3 is a heavy-duty road and an elderly man was walking on the tarmac, tottering forward on bad knees, palms pressed onto a hard cart handle.

Before his feet, the wheels of his overloaded cart were gnarly nubs that would never glide again.

I braked before him. “Do you want to come onto the pavement, Uncle?”

Without missing a step, with a glazed gaze fixed ahead, he explained why the pavement, while safer, was not the better option.

It undulated more.

The gentle inclines and declines that other legs ignored were prohibitive to his cart, his body.

And his cart was his livelihood, carrying stacks of paper whose worth was its weight, bound for recycling.

Clumsily, with his soft permission, I tried to help push.

When that failed, I tried to lift the entire thing onto the pavement.

Two fat stacks in plastic bags fell onto the road, and our dismay spilled from us.

I grabbed the bags, and ran ahead to where the pavement stopped undulating so much.

Then I dashed back, past him, retrieving my bicycle from the ground.

When I caught up with him again, we tied the stacks back down.

Where was he going?
He said Ang Mo Kio.

After a while, I decided to say goodbye, stupidly nagging at him instead of asking if there was anything else I could do. “Take care, ok? These drivers don’t look and they don’t care.”

He was inching forward, for survival. I was going to the library, for fun.

A light breeze became heavy on my back.

 

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