The Void

city street

“Loneliness is an interesting feeling.” Her grandmother’s words often came to her and it struck her now, as she was navigating through the chaotic city traffic. She felt more alone than ever when amongst a crowd. It was seven years now since she’d moved to the city from her family’s village in the North, first for university and then a return not long after, once she’d secured a job with a global telecommunications company. Her friends back home envied her; her grandmother lamented her loss of culture; and her parents, though proud of her achievements, were always worried that she was spending too much time focused on her career and missing the boat on finding a nice husband and starting a family.

Ngoc lived in a high rise apartment, surrounded by others in their boxed existences, segregated by the all too permeable walls that allowed sounds and even fragrances to weave in an out of each others lives. It was on the advice of a colleague that she got the two dogs- dachshunds that she called Long and Linh. The idea was for them to fill the void of her loneliness, or at worst, disguise it as she wandered the neighbourhood in the absence of a human companion. The novelty wore off fairly quickly for her, however, and walking Long and Linh became somewhat of a chore, though one she diligently carried out daily.

On their walks, she preferred the distraction of the busy streets to the parks that were full of other dog owners who she felt projected their emotions onto their furry friends and had an unnatural attachment to them. It was a stretch for her to even talk to Long and Linh apart from to call them for a meal or to round them up if they had wandered away off lead. “Loneliness is an interesting feeling” again, she heard her grandmother’s frail whisper. What did she mean by that? Ngoc would have been about 10 years old when her grandmother was espousing her words of wisdom, and although the context was long forgotten, piecing together the dates places the conversation roughly around the time her grandfather had died. It certainly didn’t feel interesting when you were immersed in it, she thought. Her life seemed like disjointed lonely moments- work, home, walking the dogs, home, and the diurnal pattern continued.

While a part of the flow of traffic, she felt the loneliness sweep her along with the cars, bicycles, scooters and other pedestrians, close enough to touch and moving like some giant coordinated organism, yet each travelling as separate entities, protected by their coats of anonymity. It was while she was lost in this thought that the police car travelling in the opposite direction to her set off its siren and whirring lights and took a dramatic U-turn, chancing a collision with anyone in its path. The traffic dispersed around her and that was what first caught her attention, followed by Long and Linh both tugging at their leads, pulling in opposing directions. A motorcyclist attempted to swerve and avoid Linh, inadvertently blocking the path for Ngoc to step out of the way of the approaching police car.

Lying prone and concussed, when she came to, she was eye to eye with Long and Linh who were standing beside her, guarding her from the harm of the strangers who had milled around. A paramedic was taking her pulse while another one was tending to her grazes. Reaching across with her free arm, she stroked Long and then Linh and felt a connection with them that had eluded her till then, perhaps because they’d inevitably failed to cure her loneliness. It is a funny feeling; she thought again- a paradox that gives you a longing for connection but an urge for isolation at the same time.

 

Write a post with your selection of options for setting and opening line. From this challenge. I chose the image below (photo: Cheri Lucas Rowlands/The Daily Post) and the opening line “Loneliness is an interesting feeling.”

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