Before the self-isolation and social distancing,
I always saw this man with a dog
He wasn’t your typical dog lover
I’d often see him without a shirt
Exposing his ash-covered torso,

He wore cargo shorts a little too big for him
And he was already a man of large stature
His bare feet on the hot pavements of Manila
With his dog by his side

An old bitch struggling to keep up
Yet he always kept his pace with hers
In these lonely streets,
He found companionship
There wasn’t a day he wasn’t with her

People would often avert their gaze
Walk as fast they could to avoid him
Or cross the street prematurely
To make sure they do not cross paths

But he was harmless despite his appearance
Born with his back laid on the concrete,
A table filled with scraps and an empty stomach
He was a victim of our broken system
Yet people see him as a criminal

I’d often see him sitting next to a 7/11
Eating food thrown by picky eaters
Chewing unfinished doughnuts with a smile
Next to his dog, eating the crumbs on his feet

There were days he would just stand
Near the road screaming as if he was drunk
Although, he never reeked of drugs or alcohol
He’d stop after a few minutes of screaming words
He made up and only he could understand

His dog would sit next to his feet
Waiting for him to walk
Or until a convenient store guard
Would threaten him away

In this air-conditioned room,
I wonder about this man and his dog
Is he enjoying the empty world we left?
Exploring the streets
Without fearful stares

Does he miss the presence of other people?
Was he still shouting at the sky?
Or rummaging through our garbage
Finding leftover food from panic buyers

One day, during a grocery run
All I saw was his dog
Scavenging in the trash
Alone

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