#LockdownDiary – One of many – Day 102
The idea of a collection of daily words describing how you felt for 30 days of social distancing and isolation feels really meaningful to me and something that I think I’d really appreciate having in 10 years. Think outside the box of what you might typically write!— NaNoWriMo (@NaNoWriMo) March 31, 2020
‘We don’t have any nuts,’ I shout through the door of the kitchen.
‘And,’ my partner question from the first floor.
‘I said there would be nuts. And cake!’
‘Well, we have almonds.’
‘I think I’ll roast them.’
I turn to my phone and Google gluten-free chocolate cake recipes. Too many are far too complicated but I end up finding one that is easy to follow. For the next hour, the kitchen turns into a mess of flour, dirty pots, and stirring utensils. The sink is piled high with dishes, my face red from the exercise and hot oven by my legs, and the counter is covered in chalky white flour, twigs of rosemary, and lines of chocolate goo.
‘Okay,’ I say to no one at all. I take a deep breath and check the clock. I have a good half hour before my friends arrive. I wipe my hands on my trousers and set out to clean the kitchen. First I wipe all the surfaces, the wood slowly being revealed once more. Crumbs fall to the floor but I don’t mind them for now. Next, I set out to do the dishes, getting the awkward big pots out of the way so I can access the smaller ones. Soap and dish brush in hand, I scrub until everything is sparkly clean and drying on the mat by the sink. I grab the broom and sweep the crumbs, dust, and dirt away into a corner of the kitchen. It can be hoovered later.
The clock tells me I still have about ten minutes before my friends are due to arrive. I run up the stairs, taking them two at a times, and swerve into the bedroom. I change my dirty clothes for clean ones and look at myself in the mirror. My haircut is still wonky from the day before, my hair not having had enough time to grow to hide the mistakes I made. I am trying to create a gradient of length at the side of my head but with only a pair of scissors to help, I have missed the mark more than once. I don’t care. Cutting my own hair and experimenting with it, is still very fun.
I look past my reflection, my gaze lost into the memory of another reflection. I was eleven then, maybe twelve, waiting for a friend to ring the doorbell of my home. My fist clenched and unclenched at regular intervals, trying to get rid of the excess worry mounting in me. I never let people in my home. This was my sanctuary, the place where all of me was revealed, and I was about to let this friend see it. I trusted her. She was one of my closest friend at school and I knew she wouldn’t make fun of the posters on my wall, of the duvet cover on my bed, of the toys laying around the shelves above my desk. Still, I couldn’t help be afraid. I was letting her in my sanctuary.
The doorbell rang, my friend entered my house. I showed her around awkwardly, trying to avoid my little brother. After the tour, we retreated to my bedroom. My friend looked around, taking in her surroundings. She said nothing about the room. Instead she walked to the CD player and put the radio on before settling on the floor cross-legged.
‘So, this assignment. Do you have the tape for it?’
‘Yes,’ I immediately replied, beaming. ‘Here it is. I thought we could use the washing machine for the noise of the alien ship?’
‘Oh that’s a great idea!’
And like that, I forgot she was in my sanctuary. We were busy planning our art assignment for the class we almost always paired up in. She allowed me to be creative, offering space for my ideas as well as hers. I didn’t have to compromise and shy away, I could have my own thoughts.
The reflection in the mirror reappears. I am thirty again. My fists don’t clench and unclench at the thought of friends entering my home any longer, but I am still nervous. I still do not allow many people inside my home. It is still my sanctuary, a place I retreat to and that keeps me safe.
‘There’s not even coming in,’ I mutter. We are meeting in the garden and yet, I have dusted every surface, polished the wooden tables, and hovered the floor and upholstery to death. At least the house is super clean for us, I think.
I leave the mirror and head back to the kitchen. I check on the cakes and nuts I put to roast. They are both ready. I pull them out of the oven, turn it off, and leave them to cool. I return up the stairs to tidy a few bits in the bedroom.
A knock on the door echo through the house. I tumble down the stairs to open the front door to my friends. They are standing two metres back from it, smiling.
‘I’ll open the garden door,’ I say excited to see them.
I close the door and rush on the other side of the house to open the garden door. I step back, allowing space for my friends to come in. My partner gets out of the house and join us. We all greet each other and for a while I babble too much. We decide on drinks. My partner disappears to make gin and tonics and I carry on chatting with my friends. When my partner emerges with glass filled with the cool cocktail, I step inside to bring the various nibbles I have prepared.
As I sit, my friends disappear one at a time into the kitchen to wash their hands. They tread the carpet with their shoes, something I have never liked, but I say nothing. I am too happy to see them here, in my garden. I feel strangely proud of myself for receiving people that are not my family in my very own garden.
We drink, eat, and chat, our chairs pushed back further than they would have been a year ago. The sun is playing hide and seek with the clouds but it is warm enough not to have to retreat inside. We joke and laugh, sharing stories of lockdown, moments that made us smile and occasionally moments that made us despair, sad, and anxious. They are still happening but we are all adapting, doing okay. In this moment, we can forget about all the things that are not okay. I refill my friends glass, switching gin and tonic for white wine. I disappear into the kitchen for a few minutes, emerging with the chocolate cake on a tray, candles blown by the wind on top of it. I offer to light them again but we all decline, thinking that actually, she wouldn’t be able to blow the candles. We cut slices, pour cream and warm berries over the still warm chocolate, and devour our treat.
It is the first birthday cake I have baked during lockdown that the beneficiary has been able to enjoy. I cast a side glance at my friend whose birthday it was a few days ago. She seems to be enjoying herself. I miss spending time with her, moaning about work, watching films with her and her husband, discussing the films and digressing into philosophy and life’s big questions. But right here, right now, I forget about all those things I have missed. My friends are here.
The air is cooling quickly. I can see my friend pulling her cardigan closer to her body. My own skin feels cold, the hair on my legs raised to keep me warm. It doesn’t work. We say our goodbyes, my friend have a tajine on the go at home they need to eat. I close the garden door behind them. A few feet from me, empty glasses lay on the garden table. Patterns of cream and chocolate crumbs decorate the plates, forks resting by their side. The cake is half eaten, the bottle of wine almost empty. I smile and slowly carry each item back to the kitchen, my body relishing the warmth of the house. I pour myself one last glass of wine and settle on the sofa, the garden table in my line of sight.