Sing If It Makes You Happy

The Quarantine Diaries, Part Five

Hengtee Lim (Snippets)
Human Parts
Published in
13 min readDec 17, 2020


Dark empty city street at night, save for a lone dark figure.
Image courtesy of the author

This is part of a series of short stories. To read them all, head here.

When the virus put the city into lockdown, my friend Takeshi made me go out with him to Shinjuku every night. He was a freelance writer with dreams of becoming a real journalist. He saw the virus as an opportunity. A big one.

“Most television stations won’t send their own reporters out on the streets,” he said. “Do you know what that means?”

“That it’s too dangerous to go outside?”

“No. It means there might never be an opportunity like this again.”

“You mean to catch the virus and potentially die?”

“Why are you so negative about this, man?”

“Because we’re in the middle of a citywide state of emergency due to a viral pandemic?”

Silence on the other end of the phone line. Thoughts swimming in desperation.

“What if I give you a mask? How about that? Will that help?”

“A mask?”

Even if you asked me now, I still couldn’t tell you why I said yes.

The streets of Shinjuku were mostly empty, but people were still around. There were still lights on in the red light district. There were still businessmen who went to the office and then went drinking afterward. There were still elderly people who didn’t know any better, and teenagers who didn’t care. This was before the forced lockdown, and before the virus got so bad that the SDF got involved. So even though the government had declared a state of emergency, some people still just ignored it.

The people we interviewed said mostly what you would have expected at the time. I have to make a living. Is it really that bad? I don’t know anybody who caught it. It’s a government hoax. I hate being at home. I hate my wife. I hate the world. I’m going to die anyway.

Takeshi talked to everyone. He recorded everything. He held a microphone to the world and he convinced it to talk through the patchwork of its citizens. I just held the camera. It was easy work, and I wasn’t sleeping much at the time anyway. The late nights didn’t bother…



Hengtee Lim (Snippets)
Human Parts

Fragments of the everyday in Tokyo, as written by Hengtee Lim.