Fiction

Something Like a Special Delivery

The Quarantine Diaries, Part Four

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

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Mailboxes outside apartment complex.
Photo 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 job actually got busier. Delivery requests spiked. I spent the days cycling through the suburbs, stuffing pamphlets into letterboxes. They were about what you would expect: supermarkets, restaurants, local businesses, and the occasional suspicious masseuse.

I had initially assumed I would go broke. I saw the news and I looked at my cat, and I said, “We’re probably fucked.” But instead, I was scrambling to keep up with demand. Every business had something: delivery services, special discounts, online reservations, free masks with every purchase. It was a good time to be a bike courier if you could ignore the death and economic collapse.

I wasn’t supposed to be outside at the time. None of us were. But nobody asked about it when they called. They just made their orders, told me where to pick up the pamphlets, and told me where to deliver them.

Sometimes, it’s like the less you know the better, I guess.

I rode the same route every couple of days. I started in Shimokitazawa, passed through Gotokuji and Kyodo, then headed for Seijogakuen-Mae. It was good exercise, and the weather was mostly beautiful. Empty streets and sunny days; that’s how I remember the pandemic for the most part.

I heard a lot of different things riding that route and delivering those pamphlets. It was the sound of life as it leaked from locked-down apartments. I heard violins and pianos, and kids reading their homework out loud. I heard people talking on their phones and people talking to their animals. People talking to themselves. Conversation, laughter, arguments, sex.

It was like a mixtape of the world adjusting to a new reality.

There was this one place I remember in particular—a battered old apartment building not far from Gotokuji Station. It was a brick building with all the letterboxes on the wall facing the street. Most of them were closed with duct tape because the apartments were empty, but a few of them still had nameplates and faded envelopes peeking out from piles of mostly…

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Hengtee Lim (Snippets)
Human Parts

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