In the time of COVID-19, we seldom head out. And when I do, I hurry to the wet market nearby to buy fresh produce or pack lunch and then back. I don’t usually get out of bed early on a weekend. But these days, the line between weekdays and weekends has been blurred with the working from home arrangement. If there is one thing I look forward to these days, that would be the opportunity to walk out of my apartment, even for a simple act of buying groceries. A 5-minute walk to the wet market, through the rows of 4-story tall and old, yet well maintained public housing. There is a playground – now closed due to the outbreak. Trees along the pavement. Those who live on the ground floor naturally inherited a piece of grassland in front of their homes. Most have turned the public area into a garden with a perimeter set up to gain some level of privacy.
One of the homes on the ground floor lived a Western couple. Artists I presume as I have seen homemade furniture at their ‘garden’ decorated with lines of small light bulbs. Plants meticulously well placed, which form a perimeter. As you walk past the apartment, you can see what happens at the front porch. But you would avert your eyes even though you know you are looking into a public area for it is an extension of someone else’s home. If you were with me on that day, you would also see a shirtless young man sitting by the front porch. Shortly after, another man passed by – with a mask on of course like everyone on the streets these days – walking a dog. I don’t know the name of the breed. The dog was handsome. A bit of white, a bit of brown. Short frame with short legs. The dog would pee onto one of the trees. Upon finishing its business, giving a few forceful pushes onto the ground with its hind legs, it went on finding another spot to pee.
At that moment, I was thinking, would I be fine having dogs of others peeing at my front porch though technically speaking, it is the public area? I probably wouldn’t like it. But hey, free fertilizer I guess.
By the playground, there was someone else walking the dog. This time, I wasn’t paying attention to the dog. I was observing the girl who walked the dog. Somehow, there is a heightened mystery when a girl puts on a mask. What does she look like? It is fascinating. Because what you see may please you. But what you can’t may excite you more.
At the gate of my condo, upon finishing my daily visit to the wet market, there was a man with a white singlet walking a white poodle. I am not a big fan of poodles. But this one was special. It was playing with the grass and when it saw me, it looked deep into my eyes. I sensed a connection, between a human and a dog. That look of longing and perhaps, a sense of loneliness. Its owner was on his wireless phone all the time playing a mobile game. Beep, beep, beep at maximum volume. The dog was ignored. I was annoyed. The pet owner was there. But at the same time, not there.
And for that brief moment, through our connection, I was thinking, perhaps walking a dog also means that one should be with the dog. Not just literally walking the dog. I am not a big fan of poodles. But I wish I could walk this one instead while its owner was busy playing his mobile game.
We looked into each other’s eyes, into each other’s soul. As I entered the condo and closed the gate behind me, I hurried back to my home. It was just another day, in the time of COVID-19.