Strange Familiarities: Walking Home in Pek Kio

Some nights I chance upon the quiet streets of my home.

One evening after a late-night movie, I decided to take the quiet, fifteen-minute walk home from City Square Mall. In Singapore this is a privilege one takes for granted, but rarely leverage upon.  It was only when I did so that I realised how strange and magical these streets can look: coated in the harsh, muggy unsleeping glare of the Singaporean night.

Half an hour past midnight there are dark-skinned men sitting in sarongs: texting or talking home, content in their continental solitude, drenched in the harsh glare of streetlamps.

A whole row of traffic lights blink in absent salute, agreeing that it is GO, but only for a few seconds. Then it is time to STOP again. Later I find little toads on the footpath, hurrying on their way: the grubby sandpaper concrete is no place to pause, after all.

Sometimes the serene, streetlight-dappled quiet of this old neighbourhood is enough to unravel the knotted anxieties of a long and dusty day. My consciousness unwinds, steeped in the humid serenity of my home. It and flows peaceably into the the little chirrups and soft grumbles and wind-caresses that make up the fabric of the muggy Singaporean night.

One of these evenings I shall plunge into these old familiarities: these streets I have known all my life life. Along Owen, around Pek Kio, about Farrer Park. There are still many old ghosts I have yet to meet, strange eyes I have yet to glimpse, gentle whispers in the midnight sussurus I want to hear.



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