I

When it turned orange, time changed.

 

My schedule changed drastically—and rapidly. It shrank by an hour at first. Then one day, another hour, but overnight, this became two hours. And then we were split into groups that work alternate days. And then we did alternate weeks of alternate days. Somewhere along the line, it became difficult to pin the days down. One morning, I woke up believing it to be Sunday (Why did I get up so early?), then Monday (Wait, do I have to go to work?), before finally realising that it was Saturday (relief, of a sort).

 

At first, when gatherings continued, they were strangled by the globally intensifying pessimism clinging to each personal encounter. This manifested as face masks and safe physical distances, but we did the best we could Still, each occasion felt the pressure of the looming disaster. There was always a sense that every meeting could be our last for a long time. The experience of heightened time.

 

There remains a lingering uncertainty, a change in the definition of time. It becomes impossible to plan for anything that is to come in three months, six months, a year. It is hard to plan even for the next week. If preschools and cinemas can be closed with such short notice, if even the Causeway can be shut down nearly overnight, then who’s to say that we can know anything about tomorrow? Further, it is difficult to know where it bottoms out, where we can say that we’ve hit the point where we know we can start building again. There is no sense that this will pass.

 

Time is only 9am and 3pm, when I have to take my temperature. Time is 36.1 degrees. Time is 36.6. Time is when I go to sleep to repeat the same processes tomorrow. I am temperature. I am clockwork. Time vanishes.

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Time slots became the most valuable thing. We check daily for delivery slots. We prepare carts ahead of time and pray for good luck. We order too much partly out of fear that things will be out of stock next week, and partly because it helps us achieve free delivery sometimes.

There remains a lingering uncertainty, a change in the definition of time. It becomes impossible to plan for anything that is to come in three months, six months, a year. It is hard to plan even for the next week. If preschools and cinemas can be closed with such short notice, if even the Causeway can be shut down nearly overnight, then who’s to say that we can know anything about tomorrow? Further, it is difficult to know where it bottoms out, where we can say that we’ve hit the point where we know we can start building again. There is no sense that this will pass.

 

Time is only 9am and 3pm, when I have to take my temperature. Time is 36.1 degrees. Time is 36.6. Time is when I go to sleep to repeat the same processes tomorrow. I am temperature. I am clockwork. Time vanishes.

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Social spaces become regulated and rigid. At first, this is amusing, and across social media, examples pop up in good humour. And then, this seems like absurdity, but laughter is also a common response to the absurd. And then, finally, they vanish too.

II

[Leong Chou Ching, images of measures taken in shopping malls]

III

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[Quek See Ling, I know u like me BUT 一米 please~]

Distance is one metre apart in Singapore, six feet in America. Distance is too close for comfort. Distance is too far apart. Distance is the sight of taped-up seats and the ballooning queues. Distance is the precise length of the Causeway. Distance is the chasm between two neighbours’ front doors. Distance is how long your GrabFood rider takes to reach you. Distance is family abroad. Distance is the thickness of the walls that we have built around the dormitories over the years.