I joined a Facebook group for people returning to Singapore when we booked my flight back, and wasted several evenings obsessively scrolling through the posts, looking at the images of the rooms, reading about people’s experiences. A few of my friends had quarantined already, last year or over the winter; I quizzed them extensively. I started building a sticky note on my laptop where I listed activities as they came to me—everything from “netflix lol” to “learn a new language”. I started a document with TV show recommendations and books to read and filled it up with the list of things I’d always been told to do but had just never gotten the chance to.
And time passes.
Like many things that surprise me, this should not come as much of a shock as it does when I realize the fact of it, but time does pass; it’s Thursday now, nearly a week of quarantine in. I’m thinking about time because I’ve been waiting for a routine to kick in so I can start doing my work and all I’ve realized is that in fact, the routine won’t come if I don’t make an effort. It’s easy to watch the day slip by from up here. The cars are like ants. Today I watched the clouds roll in over the CBD, a great dark forehead cresting the DBS building, and then frowning further, over City Hall, and then the HDBs beyond. Then it started raining, and I saw the water of the bay and the Pan Pacific swimming pool crinkle with the falling drops. The dark roof of the parking lot spotted over till it was a blacker shade of itself. Now it’s evening and the rain’s passed over and the sky is streaked with weird dragons of clouds and it’s sunset once more, soon enough.
There’s a balance, right? Between finishing what I need to finish, working towards the goals I’ve set myself, and also treasuring this weird castle-in-the-sky I’m getting, skybound home, everything derealized at height: my parents are spots I use binoculars to make out in the evenings. The closest I’ve been to a person was yesterday, when I accidentally opened my door early for a delivery, and caught the hotel staff before they left. They were both fully kitted out in PPE, blue robes and green masks, and hurried away from me.
I closed the door so quickly it almost slammed. I had the vague sense I’d committed a grievous crime, violated the rules of this alternate reality. I have a neighbor; my room would be a connecting room in normal times so there’s only a door separating me from the person(s) living a wall away. I checked; there’s only a ziptie holding the doors closed. A strong kick would break it open. Sometimes I can hear them—on a call, watching a movie—muffled, the words indistinguishable, but undeniably there. I’m wondering whether I should knock one day, introduce myself. One person I called suggested sliding a note under the door and striking up a correspondence. It would be like something out of a novel, they said.
I don’t think I’ll do it, though. It would break some of the magic it all has right now. This three-week-long mirage where I see the world and see myself as not part of it. Unmoored and floating. Where I look at Singapore at golden hour, all the edges trembling and shining, the buildings a postcard. Where I am almost certain it would collapse if I touched it.
I’ll do my work, I’m sure. But in a while, once I watch the sun set once more.