Last night I walked the city streets alone.

Desperate for a sugar-coated cuppa, I made a b-line for the neighbourhood night kadey. It was 3 am and cold, and a storm had just gone by. Lines of street lights coated in droplets are mellowed in the afterglow of rain.


A motley crew had congregated at the kade. A truck driver taking a break from an all-night run. A couple of well-dressed friends splitting a kottu after a night on the town. Three dogs seated outside, waiting for scraps of leftovers. Four drunken men in search of a cure to staggering before heading home to their wives. The bright lights inside kept us warm and accidently clustered together within the dingy walls of this particular all night establishment. Is this how we come together as a city? With accidental meetings in the still of the night?


I stay longer than I need to, a second round of saccharine sweetness in hand. With little need for conversation, a silent camaraderie had erupted around us, connecting us in a rhythm of steel blades beating on an open oven-top in a ritual dance that manifests a plateful of kottu. Then silence again – interrupted by the cluttering of cup to saucer or spoon to plate every few seconds. A vehicle would drive by from time to time, only to be chased by our companion canines, their manic barks continuing for a full minute after wheels that had already rolled on by and into the darkness.


Eventually I leave. But I might have left a part of me inside those paint-peeling walls. I feel most alive in the company of insomniacs. My people are night owls and lycans and vampire-like beings who have little desire for the light of day. There’s a kind of hush in the time between the setting and the rising of the sun. I wonder why more people aren’t awake at night. Or if they are, but don’t come out to play. Perhaps the night shift isn’t everyone’s cup of tea.


As I walk, the only one left to encounter on this night is myself. Lights from buildings and hazy street lamps become my only company. A solitary 4 am driver whizzes past, somewhere over the speed limit. A dog is curled up under a shed, shivering inside a dream. A gust of wind passes through, shaking leaves off branches and cascading them down and around me. For a moment I’m inside a fairytale, surrounded by yellow-brown leaves suspended motionless in time.

A beat. Then the rain comes crashing down again. I stand still, drenched. A thunder clap in the distance breaks me out of my trance. So I run like the little piggie in the nursery rhyme – all the way home.



A Column by Natalie Soysa