Lives under lockdown: A 13-year-old’s perspective

“Get out of my shop lah! What do you think you’re doing here? Chee seen ah lei (are you crazy)! Do you know how bad you smell? You ruined my business, look at how everyone’s leaving! Now see what I’m going to do to you!”

Danish didn’t know how to react. He couldn’t speak nor respond to this man, as he didn’t know how to explain why he was there. Why was this man staring at him so angrily like this? The manager hauled Danish up from behind, pinching the skin of the back of his neck. Danish screamed and yelped in pain.

“Already no business. This is all I need … a smelly rat to attract the abang polis. Aiyoh! Just go lah. I senyap-senyap buka kedai for people with money, not for the likes of you, beggar boy.”

Then, he threw Danish out the backdoor, knocking him unconscious.

Checking if anyone was in the back lane to see him, the man snatched the blanket lying on the ground and flung it into the big garbage bin next to Danish. He then went back in and used the hand sanitiser next to the cash register.

A few hours later, Danish awoke groggily, confused. He couldn’t remember why he was on a dirty, old back lane.

As he jerked his head up, Danish felt a shock of pain rush through his neck and forehead. He frowned, confused at the pain, but became even more puzzled when he looked at the shop.

He saw a middle-aged man staring at him with angry eyes. Danish shrunk back in fright, and the man scrunched his nose and looked in the opposite direction.

Just then, he realised something was amiss. Where was his blanket?

Danish gasped. He stood up even quicker than ever and began feeling all around him for his blanket. But he could find nothing. His eyes scanned the street, hoping to catch a glimpse of the familiar green colour that was his blanket.

Tears formed in his eyes and trickled down his face. Danish stared at his bare feet, taking in slowly the loss of his blanket. He swallowed hard as he stared into the distance, thinking of his mother.

That blanket had been the only thing that had been there to comfort him and remind him of his mother.

But now, it was gone, and Danish didn’t know if he would ever see it again. The young boy had now gone for eight days without food, and he didn’t know how much longer it would be before he couldn’t take it anymore.

That night, Danish struggled to fall asleep. He had found a new place that seemed better than before. But this new environment didn’t seem good at all to him. As he lay down on some old pieces of cardboard, questions and thoughts raced through his mind, and his inner voice spoke to him.

He wanted to be with his Mak. After all, what was left for him if he wasn’t even welcome and nobody seemed to care?

As Danish stared up at the sky, he could see nothing except for a few stars that made up the only light that was shining in the night. He swallowed hard, but all that was left in his throat was coarse and dry. He closed his eyes tight and prayed once again.

All of a sudden, the heavens opened and water came pouring down in all directions. Danish shivered and trembled in cold and fright. This time, he could not do anything.

Editor’s note: This is an excerpt from The Blanket by Andrea Wong. It is part of a series of pandemic stories in Lives Under Lockdown: A Young Writer’s Anthology. Priced at RM32.90, the book is available at MPH Bookstores. Royalties from the sale of the book will be channeled to SOLS Health Community Centres.