Visible on the horizon on the other side of this spot are small, green mountains that rise up like a surprise behind the urban landscape. A short train ride from where I stay takes me into the heart of these outcroppings where there are enough trees to make me believe in forests again, and small houses with large gardens, and a lovely, clear waterfall.
I have to remind myself of these things when I look out my window and see walls of leprous concrete that soar ten stories above my view. The sky is so far above me that it hurts my neck to look for it, and the only hint of sun is a brightening of the air, sharp shadows on concrete, and a glare coming from windows slanted open that catch the light from above.
"Is it raining today?" I asked the lady at the ground floor laundry one morning. She laughed and said, "I don't know. I live upstairs." At that moment I understood that in the community of Chungking Mansions, of the 4000 people who live here, there are some who rarely see natural light, let alone the natural world.
Hari and Jun claim to never have days off, which means their light is almost completely fluorescent. The laundry lady closes on Sunday, and I hope she goes out to revive memories of how raindrops feel on her skin.