Fiction

What I Saw From the Rooftop

The Quarantine Diaries, Part One

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

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A watercolor style photograph of a city skyline.
Photo courtesy of the author.

This is the first in a series of short stories. To read them all, head here.

When the virus put the city into lockdown, I spent my mornings on the roof of my apartment building. I liked the routine; I walked six flights of stairs to the twelfth floor, leaned against the rusty railing that ran the length of the building, and tried not to think about the world ending.

The roof wasn’t a very interesting place. Mostly it was just air conditioning vents and the pipes that spidered out of them. The only sign that people had ever been up there was a faded green stool and a small card table next to the door. Underneath the table was a rusty old golf club.

I’d never played golf. It didn’t interest me. I didn’t take much notice of it on the television, and I only knew the basics; you hit a ball until you put it in a hole somewhere further than where you started. But at the same time, I was a bored human on the roof of an apartment building in the middle of a city-wide viral lockdown.

So one day I picked up the golf club, and I started swinging it.

There was something that just felt good about swinging that club. I don’t really know how to explain it. Maybe it was the sensation of the club cutting through the air, or perhaps it was the sound it made. In any case, I spent a lot of quiet mornings that way; just me, my blank thoughts, and an old golf club.

One day, a girl came up to the roof with a big cardboard box. She put it on the table, sat on the stool, and lit a cigarette.

“What are you doing up here?” she said.

“Just uh… just practicing my swing.”

The girl considered this for a moment, then shrugged.

“Well, don’t let me stop you.”

I tried to get back to it but I’d lost my rhythm. It was the first time anyone had watched me. My posture felt stilted. My movements clunky and robotic. I felt stupid.

Eventually, I decided to head downstairs to my apartment. But by then, the girl was gone. All that remained was the cardboard box she’d left on the table, and a cigarette butt next to a faded…

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Hengtee Lim (Snippets)
Human Parts

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