#LockdownDiary – One of many – Day 36
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
My feet off the ground, I extend my arm and thwack! I send the shuttlecock back to my partner. She catches it and the volley continues. For an hour we hit the it back and forth disregarding the rules of badminton. A man runs a wide loop around us, his face a gradient of reds. A group of friends are gathered at the end of the park, their voices loud to breach the two metres distance between them. A dog barks for a ball. We play on.
‘Water,’ I say dropping my racket to the ground. A minute later we’re back in our imaginary playing grounds, the borders defined by other people’s proximity.
‘I’m hungry,’ my partner says eventually.
‘One last volley?’
We give it our all but with our waning concentration we barely manage more than five back and forth. Our stomachs grumbling, we sit on the picnic blanket and spread our feast out. Olives and tomatoes in one pot, beetroot and goat cheese in another, hummus for the carrots, cucumber, and celery. I pour some of the non-alcoholic beer into a mug.
I look around. The running man is gone, the friends have disappeared. Instead there is a family cycling loops on the gravel paths, the thick tyres of their bicycle screeching at each bend. Another family is arriving with bags, bicycles, and balls. They sit on the tump by the slide. I hear a can pop open. One of the younger children sprints for the slide but an adult catches them. The playground remains closed to all. I can’t hear the child but she doesn’t seem to hold a grudge instead she sprint down the hill, racing against the wind.
We put away the food we haven’t eaten and lie down on the blanket. I open a book of essays by Michel de Montaigne and for a while read aloud. There is no one to disturb.
‘Can I have a bit of quiet,’ my partner asks as she rolls on her back.
‘Sure.’ I carry reading silently. A trio of magpies fly past, their screech carrying far on the wind.
I close the book and lie on my back, the grass tickling the side of my bare calf. A month ago, I would not have been able to relax in such public a place but this is life now. It is not devoid of anxiety, it is not safe, but my mind has pulled a switch. I have tried to resist the pull for the last couple of days, not wanting this to become normal but my fight was to no avail.
We pack up and return home via well known paths. Windows are open in every houses, cars parked in their usual spots. At home, we clear away the dishes and go our separate ways. I work in the study for a while, the wooden desk my new daily environment. A pigeon flies by the window drawing my attention away from the computer screen. I notice the tree in the neighbour’s garden. It was all skeleton and shades of brown when we first became trapped in our homes. Wide green leaves now covers it, its canopy obstructing the view from the window. In a few hours it will be set alight by the setting sun. The light is already hitting our house at a steep diagonal, sending glares through the window panes. I head downstairs and carefully arrange marbles on the streak of lights on the carpet. The extension tubes screwed on my camera, I focus on the details of each marbles but the carpet fibres soon catch my attention. By my side, my partner stretches her body to the orders of a yoga teacher on her laptop screen.
I go back upstairs to edit the photos until my partner calls me down for a painting session. Earlier in the day we had agreed to replace the portrait of me in the study she had done a year ago with a new one.
‘Can you sit over there,’ she asks pointing to the reading chair.
‘Sure.’ I pick up my book and find a confortable position. I turn on the light and rotate it until my partner is happy with the position. I read while she paints. Time has little importance as the words sink into my brain. I wonder how much longer this lockdown is going to last. It has taken this long to get used to it, to feel safe within my new boundaries and I am loathed to return to normal. I do not want to return to normal in fact. I would like things to change, people to carry on cycling, neighbours to still have time for a chat, work hours to be shorter, politicians to be held accountable, equality to be discussed with intention, life to change. I know a return to my pre-pandemic life will not happen. Covid-19 will become a fact of life, something to get used to. Sometimes, as time goes on and my local community remains safe, I wonder if people know deaths are happening. They are announced on our television screens every night but in my immediate vicinity everybody is safe. Some grow tired of the lockdown, others are busy with work and volunteering, and in my street at least one person is at work in a hospital. But we are safe, untouched. Can we mourn with everybody else? Can we understand the impact the virus is having on families and communities hit hard by it? I remind myself that we are lucky but not immune. It doesn’t require much for us to be come a statistic on the evening news.
‘I’m peckish,’ my partner says taking me out of my reverie.
‘Already?’ I check the clock. ‘Oh it’s seven already! Can I move from the chair?’
I leave the book behind and go to check the painting. It is a work in progress and we both know there is much more to be done to it but for now it is a funny portrait of me with a long pink nose, a stretched mouth, and blobs of pink for eyes. I am reminded of cubist portraits, or maybe a clown. I snap a photo and send it to our friends and family. They all jump on their phones as it beeps in their faraway homes and for an instant, we are gathered around the painting, laughing at my face.