The town you used to live in

It is interesting how profoundly a place changes when you go from living there to just visiting. You see it through different eyes. It can never be the same again.

Last night, Game insisted we go out at 2 in the morning. I don’t think I have ever been out at 2 in the morning in Antigua. Certainly not these past 3 years that I’ve lived here. I don’t think even back in the day, over a decade ago, when I was backpacking through. I was already working remotely then, and getting early starts, before digital nomading became a thing.

I have never seen the city as peaceful as it is tonight, except in Carlos Lopez Ayerdi’s eerie pandemic pictures. Not a single soul in the street. A lone police car pulls around the corner.

Game and I walk two blocks to Parque Central. The shapes of the homeless seam the archway of 5a Avenida Norte. Everyone is covered in a blanket; most have a dog with them, nestled up close to their bodies.

The first time we walk past, nobody steers. We’re quiet. Game, no dog tags to give her away, scavenges around the benches and fountains and crane flowers on silent paws. She finds a chicken bone in one corner; a stale tortilla in another. It must have been a busy night at the park, and the cleaning crew will only come in a few hours.

Warm, soft light is draped over the Palacio de Los Capitanes like a cloak. The central fountain with its mermaids bubbles peacefully, with no one watching but me and Game.

Finishing the loop around the park, one of the dogs hears us. They start barking, and soon everyone joins in, a cacophony of barks; four-legged shadows break away from the resting human mounts. Having a dog is a universally good thing.

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