After a restful nap, Tortoise awoke in the middle of Singapore's COVID-19 Phase 1 "Circuit Breaker" lockdown without knowing it.
Hungry, he entered his kitchen when a citrus-green magnolia champaca leaf flew in through the window and fell to the ground. Circling around his countertop to retrieve the leaf, he beheld a mosaic of green, red and yellow leaves in artful repose (and decay) on the floor. Inspired by these bright natural colours, he decided to create a new sunglasses collection.
After snapping some pictures, he called the usual suspects and pitched his idea to them.
Crystal, who was browsing a Chinese takeout menu, responded, "I'd love to, but no one wears sunglasses any more because we all just stay at home."
Similarly, Milky, who had discovered baking and was searching online for organic oats, declined, saying, "No one leaves the house any more."
Even Tortoise's cousin Jimmy, who was always up for anything, demurred. "I haven't left my place in three weeks," he said. "I can't even remember where my sunglasses are!"
Determined, Tortoise walked across Singapore to survey the land. At Tanjong Beach in Sentosa, the scene was empty and pristine. At Woodlands Checkpoint, the causeway was so clear he spotted palm trees in Johor Bahru. He even saw a flock of chickens cross Orchard Road! Ready to give up because he had not seen a single person, Tortoise headed home and thought about opening a bag of Cheetos.
As he was crossing Sixth Avenue, a young woman in her late twenties wearing neon pink lycra shorts whizzed past him on her racing bicycle.
Curiosity piqued, Tortoise followed her to Jalan Haji Alias, where he witnessed a flurry of activity. Two houses away, a food delivery rider was rummaging through his thermal backpack for a packet of Hainanese chicken rice. Across the street, five houses down, a postman was returning to his blue van after delivering a large brown parcel.
Looking further afield, Tortoise counted at least fifteen pedestrians engaged in varying levels of physical activity: a young mother and her three adolescent children jogging with their chocolate labrador, two septuagenarian aunties brisk-walking toward Holland Green and an army recruit with a buzz cut sprinting up Coronation Road West. Moreover, everyone was wearing sunglasses!
Tortoise had an epiphany: "When people have to go to the office, they want to stay home; when they have to stay at home, they find any excuse to be outdoors!" He also estimated there were thousands of delivery drivers plying their routes under sunny blue skies every day, keeping the city moving.
He hurried home to tell his friends.
"...And that's why some people still need sunglasses," he shared with Crystal, Milky and Jimmy over a video call. With newfound enthusiasm, they studied the leaves in Tortoise's kitchen and experimented with various colour combinations until they found fifteen they loved. As each participant left the call, they felt grateful to play a part in this challenging new world.
After his last friend exited, Tortoise opened a bag of Cheetos and had his finger on the red "End Call" button when he received a notification. Someone named "Blue-Light Blocker" had entered the call.