Lockdown Litany

For the miles and miles of bubble wrap, packing tape and heat-shrink plastic we have added to landfills because we now do our shopping on Lazada and Shopee instead of at the mall, or the kedai runcit around the corner.

For the expensive laksa, slightly sunken butter cake and addictive crackers we have added to our underused love handles because we want to encourage friends in their budding MCO-fuelled home businesses.

For the 5-star rating we gave to that delivery rider who wore his mask down at his chin, whose “attitude” wasn’t soooo “outstanding” … but then we kesian him riding in the rain … so, 5 stars.

For the edible love we have sent and received from neighbours near and far. Ordering Kek Lapis Sarawak made in Northern Yorkshire that costs five times the Malaysian rate so that a friend in Sheffield, who is too old to ever fly to Kuala Lumpur again, will know what this amazing teatime treat tastes like.

For the late-night hours and mid-afternoon productivity that we have sacrificed upon the altar of Netflix.

For the Strava achievements of friends that we marvel, laugh or feel kiasu looking at over the weeks (now months) when we cannot physically walk, jog, hike or cycle together.

For the sheer quantity of sourdough photographs, tips and loaves that have been shared when Gardenia was scarce, and our time at home abundant.

For the ailing friend we had hoped to visit while they fought their final war with pain. The former partner-in-crime for whom we wore a brave, cheerful demeanor in that final Zoom call. For whom we video-recorded a hymn sung with shaky voice and messy guitar chords.

For our unspoken questions: Should I have hidden my tears so I would not add to their burden? Should I have let my tears show so that they would know that love and grief overflows?

For the Zoom and YouTube Live weddings, the bank-transfer angpows with no angpow packets, the radiant couple’s faces beaming from behind a curtain of emoji bubbles: Likes and Loves and Laughs floating up in a Facebook palette pf blue, red and yellow.

For the Chinese wedding banquet yam rice I will not miss, and the finless seafood soup that, oddly, I do.

For the young athletes who have been locked out of their schools, gyms and pools for half a year, watching this season’s chance at golds, silvers and bronzes fade away like their muscle tone and crammed exam facts.

For the loved one with a progressing degenerative disease, and your quiet hope that their mobility and lucidity will outlast the pandemic, the closed international borders and the grounded planes that currently stand between this person and the bucket list destination they long to visit, but can only see on Astro for now.

For the newborn you would have been the first to drive two hours just to the hold and gomoi at the hospital. The cutie that, until now, has never known you except as a noisy manic face making weird, entertaining noises at her from her daddy’s phone screen.

For the world that will be inherited by this baby – who, by the way, sat up on her own for the first time today.

For the Singaporean you met backpacking in Hanoi, whom you considered starting a long-distance relationship with. Roundtrips every other weekend on FirstCoach or Firefly? She’s worth it. You’ve given up on AirAsia ever refunding the tickets for your weekend in Bali with her that was planned for March 2020.

For you, thinking about the new diamond you saw on her finger via Instagram this morning.

For the empty office building where you have come to fetch an important document, only to run into the security guard whose name you forgot because you’ve not greeted him in 4 months. So you smile and say “How are you, OK tak?” with extra enthusiasm while wracking your brain.

For the guard, who says he’s OK at first, then slowly reveals that Covid-19 claimed the lives of his sisters back in Kathmandu.

For the causes, needs and names that weigh heavily on your heart and fill your prayers.

For the petitions you sign because you’re not sure what else you can do.

For the DuitNow transfers to bank accounts managed by tired angels with sleep-deprived bodies and brave, kind faces… that they may find a way to stretch each ringgit you could send.

For those who receive this support, that there won’t be another crackdown to haul them away, tear them from their children and thrust them into crowded and unsanitary detention facilities so that some Malaysians – who just last week were raging and raising funds about the rockets landing in Palestine – can teach these unwanted pendatangs of the wrong ethnicity a tough lesson for being “kaduk naik junjung”.

For the extra portion of nasi lemak rendang ayam your mother has prepared so that it might bless the unemployed tenant renting a room next door and offer a break from his instant noodle and frozen paratha diet.

For Members of the State Assembly and the Parliament, the ones for whom we voted. For the ones who have kept the faith and continued with their duties so that smaller gains are not lost, not even when the rakyat lose hope in Putrajaya.

For the kitajaga.co pin you answered, only to be told by a grateful and honest fellow Malaysian: We’re OK now. One akka just dropped off some milk powder and diapers for us, so you should go help somebody else.

For the new houseplant that just arrived (via courier) to brighten up your desk as you work from home.

For the karaoke champion uncle next door whose crooning causes giggles on your work con call. For your colleagues who are asking if they can send him song requests through you.

For the appointment you have finally received, so you might finally do your part to bring us closer to the end of this lockdown.

For your cheesy but cute Saya Telah Divaksinasi victory shot that you will post before you leave WTCKL and drive home to spend a day in bed with fever and your favourite video binge fodder.

May we find mercy.

May we be love.


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