Fall has now found Wuhan.
I’m sitting outside on a cement park bench under a blue plastic gazebo that looks as if it once hosted a maizhang table. Now it is just the remnants. Three cemented stools. A green table topper balancing on the edge of the gazebos’ corners. There are broken wooden chairs, some seatless, some backless, and some appearing stable enough to sit on.
A woman has just pulled her bike up across me where she has stopped to check for bottles to recycle in the trash. She pulls out a few cans, pops them into her basket, and pedals along.
There are womens’ voices laughing, garbling and gossiping over gambling. They sit behind me, and they’ve been playing with those chips since lunch. It’s almost dinner now.
There are dogs barking, and people returning home from work. They walk side by side, strolling as if time can wait while they soak up the good feelings that moving forward step by step can inflict you with when you’re moving forward towards something with someone, even if it’s just dinner.
I sit here in my shelter, my back getting stiff from the metal pole supporting my back, and I can hear the sounds of families prepping their meals. Oil sizzles, spoons clang against metal pans, faucets turn on and off, and forks scrap. I look at all the windows staring back at me, and wonder where the table is being set.
The magpie birds argue overhead, an ugly cackle that could never be confused with singing. A man stops to stare at the odd foreigner typing away on her blue laptop under the blue gazebo, and he almost falls off his bike as he rounds the corner to get a better look.
A boy in a yellow shirt is walking behind me but it’s hard to tell if he’s actually a boy. His face is round and young like a child, but he walks with the authority and confidence of someone who knows where he is going.
To my right is a man walking around without aim in the garden. It’s not really a garden though, just a plot of grass with trees and bushes, but maybe that’s a garden. He lights a cigarette and starts to talk with a woman about something in the area. Pointing, gesturing, sweeping arms, and long pauses while they think it over.
A woman comes down from the building. She’s wearing a red shirt, and carrying her trash to the bin. She drops it in. Goes back through the gate. It slams shut, and I wonder what she’s going home to.
A mosquito bites my foot for the fourth time.
A white dog runs behind me and hesitates as he passes the regal German Shepherd perched in front of my building. He stands up to walk with his master, an old women in red who walks as if it is painful. She’s got a cigarette in her hand and a limp in her leg. She hunches down onto a bench in a sea of motor bikes and pedal bikes, smoking and watching the same nothings I’m watching, only she watches me too.
Another woman in red walks by. Her head is down, and she’s carrying a plastic bag of some unidentifiable meat. She watches the man and the woman to my left arguing about that something in that area that may or may not be a garden, and she pauses to look and see what they are doing.
A woman in a pink hoodie walks around with her son who is carrying a case for a badminton racket. He looks about seven, fresh from school with his Mickey Mouse book bag.
There’s a kitten mewing from somewhere above. There’s music falling into mumbles from inside someone’s house. There’s a Kia parked to my left. And the dogs keep barking.
I hear the sounds of little paws running, and I wish the dog would come up and say hi, but I must be a bit invisible here.
I could be anywhere right now, but I’m not sure where I want to be.
It’s almost five and I know I should go upstairs to wait for my landlord to come and fix the toilet, but I don’t feel like moving from this spot where the mosquitos bite, and the people pass. I like the feeling of being somewhere and nowhere all at once.
In these moments, I wonder why time doesn’t stop. It’s clear that the world is still moving, but I’m sitting still to the sounds of strangers and untold stories.