Three years ago when i was working in Starbucks, i remembered walking in winter time to the nearest train station which was a fifteen minute walk at fast pace, but usually a twenty-five minute leisurely one for me. It was too early in the morning to be rushing around. I did not have a car at that time. I remember (and to be honest quite fondly) waking at 3am, feeding the dogs their breakfast at that unearthly hour, before catching the first train into the city. I recalled noticing that the only other passengers are usually the tradesmen, and most of us would be snoozing on the train. I remembered thinking that if i never took up this part-time job, i would never have known that a tradesman’s job could be this demanding. That was the morning shifts.
The evening shifts stretched till midnight. I would be catching the bus home because it would be too dangerous to ride on the trains alone at that hour. You meet all kinds of people. My area is a safe one – encountering a drunkard would be unheard of. However, the train that travels through my suburb, travels through fairly treacherous ones after my stop. Drug addicts and people looking for a punch aren’t uncommon on the train. The bus stop is an eight minute walk from my house. My street is pretty dark – i am not sure why. I remember walking through the blistering cold, and always walking in the middle of the road. I would also automatically switch the iPod off when i alighted from the bus, keeping a keen vigilance on my surroundings. The sidewalks were full of shadows, and i was full of paranoia. I always felt that someone could be hiding in those shadows. The dogs in the neighbourhood kept me company during my walk. They would shuffle or growl as i walked past and that would reassure me because if there was someone else out there, i would have been alerted.
The entry of my street would be lighted up by the streetlamps on the road. The next lighted area would be the small private hospital beside my house. I chose this neighbourhood because i know i would be safe walking at 3am; the hospital is always awake, and if there is trouble, at least i know someone can come to my aid. I would get home close to 1am after my night shifts. The dogs would be waiting for me patiently. And i would take them out for their walk, in the middle of the night, through the same dark street, out onto the main road.
Together, the three of us would stroll quietly along the deserted road; me trying to stay warm in my jacket, the dogs’ breaths visible in front of them. It was a time-out for me, twenty minutes of complete solitude with no human interaction. Just my thoughts and i. I was dead exhausted but i was content.
Almost two years later, i would quit that job to focus on medicine. I would also re-home my terrier because of a variety of reasons and circumstances. I hardly walked my dog in the night. We go for a stroll at a more appropriate hour where we can meet other dog owners and their dogs, and watch the neighbourhood kids zoom around on their bikes, or observe the soccer matches going on.
Then two months ago, my routine changed again. I resumed martial arts training, and found myself a soccer club. Nights were spent in one training or the other. Days were spent at the hospitals. I started walking the dog at nights again. It was not as late as those nights we used to patrol, but it was still late nevertheless. Now it’s the both of us, walking quietly along the silent road, me lost in my thoughts, and the dog checking in on the other neighbourhood dogs. The cold air numbing my ears, and condensing the dog’s breath. And i realized i miss these night walks. The solitude is refreshing, the cold winter air a reminder that it is the small things in Life that counts. And when i think about this neighbourhood, and the years i have spent here, i can’t help but feel a little wistful because i know in less than a year everything will change completely.
A new phase of life awaits me, and i would walk through another milestone in my life, this one six years in the making. Regardless of my decision to stay in this country or to return to my homeland, i will be moving and leaving this neighbourhood. And i know that i will miss these night walks of solitude, miss the days and nights which i spent slogging my arse off, dead tired but contented and proud to know i can withstand hardship and that i will work for what i want. This place holds a lot of memories, an unexpected residence and now a calculated move into another place.
I am sad but excited at the same time. What did i say? This is the paradox of life.