The tables’ black paint is peeling now, speckled with splashes of aged honey mustard, mayonnaise and an assortment of various other blotches and blemishes. Tables like these lined the Tent Plaza, and they’d seen almost everything.
They saw me go through my first ‘heartbreak’ in fifth grade, they saw me drink seven Cokes a day in sixth grade, they saw me fall in love with kebabs in seventh grade, felt the sharp hits of my drumsticks as I started percussion lessons in eighth grade, and saw me flunk my first test in ninth grade. They felt the sweat on my palms as I stressed about my first board examinations in tenth grade, they saw me experiment with hideous facial hair in eleventh grade and, more recently, they felt my tears as I cried on the last day of high school.
Those black tables were, and still are, the centre of my school’s social sphere – everything happens around these tables. Every year, the tables were something that we drew comfort from. But it wasn’t the tables that made this environment conducive to the creation of experiences, it was also what was behind the tables.
The backdrop of the tables changed drastically. An old building surrounded by a pretty garden that steeped the Tent Plaza in pale green light was replaced by a modern, reflective glass building. Much like our new relationship with The School, the usual debauchery that still occurred at the black tables was hollow, a hopeless counterfeit of what it once was.
Students now sit in front of a gleaming new behemoth of an academic building, no longer bathed in natural hues; instead, blinding LED lights flood the space with intense brilliance. Even the familiar Singaporean humidity was noticeably absent, replaced by hissing fans spitting air into the Tent Plaza. And while these changes should be positives, the expensive architecture, the modern amenities and comforts, all these additions seem to squeeze the character from those tables I grew up at. The School is losing its character.