I opened the list of the hotel’s quarantine activities yesterday for the first time. They had a list of exercises I could do in my room, museums I could walk through virtually, and parks with street-view visits. I laughed and then closed the page. If I’m being honest, apart from the once or twice a day when I press my face against the window and try to feel a little bit of humidity on my skin, I haven’t missed the outside world that much. There are things I am looking forward to doing—going on a run, sitting down in a restaurant. But I haven’t felt as cooped up as I expected to.
Maybe it would have hit me midway through my third week, but I guess I’ll never know.
Part of is that my room is extremely nice and there are distinct areas in it for doing different things and also a wide open space in front of the TV which helps in, if not occupying more space, at least looking out and having the illusion of spaciousness. And, of course, all of Singapore unrolling in front of me from the windows.
I like showing people my view on Zoom calls; people say a variety of things in return, but most people say some variation of it’s so beautiful. I shrug. It’s just Singapore, I say. And, to be fair, where I am, in the midst of the CBD, looking out on the Merlion (Marina Bay Sands is obscured by the hulk of the Pan Pacific) and the Singapore flyer and Gardens by the Bay, is not quite just Singapore; it’s postcard Singapore, it’s the Singapore you sell to tourists, designed for people to look out of 5-star hotel rooms and go, ah, I’ve made it, the promised land, holy gleaming grail of skyscrapers and air-conditioning.
At a height when everything shrinks to ants the buildings so large when you stand among them become inconsequential, pinched between your fingers. My favorite part on airplanes is in the middle of the ascent when you can see the shift happen, from the trees and people just there to blocks scrolling away into the distance. It’s fantastic to give yourself a false sense of importance. Maybe that’s it. I don’t know.
Everyone in the quarantine Facebook groups I was in recommended getting a bike or a treadmill for your hotel room. It helped with the sensation of movement, they said. People also recommended videos of tracks you could follow along for the duration of an hour, or more. Mostly I just watch bad sitcoms on the bike, or call my friends. I don’t feel like I’m getting anywhere. But I also don’t know if I feel like I need to. Because of the biking, my thighs ache most of the time. (I need to do yoga.) That’s some kind of movement, some tangible growth. My body moving around me instead of the world.
I was thinking about coming back to Singapore at the beginning of the pandemic last year and those three months at home. I talked with my mother a lot about what we missed and mostly we came down to not that much, actually. And I have realized since then it is nicer meeting people in person, seeing their whole body from the torso up. But it’s okay the other way around, too. Your world shrinks fast. That’s not necessarily a bad things.
After the reduction of quarantine was announced, I let my schedule and plans collapse a little. I’ve spent a lot of mornings in bed watching TV, occasionally glancing to my side as the storm clouds roll in. Somewhere far away. Somewhere outside my little universe. Today I woke up and the air-conditioning combined with the humidity outside had fogged over the windows entirely. All I could see was pale blue and the faint blush of sunrise at the rims. No shapes of anything definite. I felt like I was flying.