#LockdownDiary – One of many – Day 49
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
‘Do you want to go for a walk,’ I ask my partner. It is just past two in the afternoon and I’m hoping the parks will be less busy than in the later afternoon.
I grab my stetson hat, put on a pair of shoes, and we step out of the house. We follow our usual route, through the footpath out of our streets, into the one-way road, and to the deserted sport grounds. We swerve and wait instinctively to let people pass. It is early in the afternoon but the sport ground is busy with gatherings. A basketball game is in full swing by the playground, while a few metres away from it a some men are throwing a rugby ball between them. On the opposite side, a young family is laying in the grass, their toddler trying to make a break for freedom. We hurry through those groups to reach the end of the grounds. We hop over the low metal railing and follow the steps down to the footpath. On our left, the steep bank is overgrown with bushes and trees while on our right, the grass once low is now reaching our chest.
‘Person coming,’ I say without pausing in our conversation. We step off the path and lean into the tall grass.
‘Afternoon,’ The man walks past with his dog, sweat creating ridges in his skin.
‘Good afternoon,’ we echoe. We watch him disappear out of the path and into a quiet street.
The lights in the train station covered car park lit up as our movement activate them. A man comes out of the station by a side door, accompanied by a woman and a set of luggage. We slow our steps to their cadence.
Taxis are still waiting empty. I nod my head and smile at a driver, his radio his sole companion for the day. People in orange hi-vis are scattered around the outdoor car park. Nothing seem to have changed since they have began work there.
We reach the main road, our ears assaulted by the speeding cars. We look left and right, and again, and again. ‘It’s busy,’ my partner comments.
‘Yeah,’ I reply hopping to the middle of the road, waiting for a car to pass. It has grown busier again. Crossing roads is not an easy affair any longer. The flow of motorised vehicles is taking back the main roads. I can’t help but wonder why. Are all those people going to work or coming back from work? It’s an odd time for such traffic. Are they all driving to different places for their daily outing? Are they visiting family? Those last two options seem plausible. Why can’t they cycle in such a beautiful day, I wonder. I know not all distances are easily cyclable and public transport is out of the question, but do cars really need to be back on the roads in high numbers?
We duck into a side street and to the footpath sandwiched between the back of houses and a small brook. The water is quiet today, its level too low to make its presence heard. Not even flies are bothering us in the heat.
‘I should have put something else than my jeans,’ I comment. ‘I feel like I’m an oven.’
‘Me too,’ my partner agrees. She is wearing a jumper and a scarf.
We carry on in silence, nothing to be done about out clothes now.
‘Person ahead,’ I say quietly as I spot dark hair through the tall grasses of the park. The council has mowed alleyways for people to walk, leaving plenty of grass uncut for wildlife. ‘I wish they weren’t lying in it,’ I tell my partner as it becomes evident that it’s not just one person, but four sprawled through a wide area of the grass. Music is streaming from one of their phone, the beat of a modern song the only sound to the heard in the surrounding area.
We walk past in silence.
‘Cool hat’! One of the person in the grass yells. I keep on walking with my partner, pretty sure the interjection is not meant as a compliment.
‘Cool hat,’ the voice repeats louder. I ignore it still. ‘Are you a man?’
No, I’m not, I think but do not turn back.
‘Imagine how confused they would have been if it’d been in my shorts, my unshaven legs showing,’ I joke to my partner. We laugh.
I feel sorry for those people who feel they had to define my gender by my appearance. Short hair, a stetson hat, and shapeless clothes apparently define me as not a woman. So by default, I have to be a man. At least, it is what I assume they are thinking about me. I am sad that this is still happening. I am a woman, just not one that conforms to the projected image of womanhood. I think back to the pub owner a year ago who assumed a friend and I walking together were a couple, because why else would a man and a woman be together?
I have grown secure enough not to hear those comments any longer. I should correct them, I think, but I rarely have the strength for it. I certainly didn’t today. This is only meant to be a gentle walk, a moment to not think and let worries lay aside for an hour or so.
We cross the road into another park to be faced with a caravan parked under the shadow of the trees sheltering the park from the road.
‘What?’ I turn to my partner. ‘What’s it doing here?’
‘How did it get in?’
I turn around and see the multiple gates and barriers to stop motorised traffic coming in. ‘I’m not sure.’
I stare at the caravan for a moment. Are they really going to stay there for the day, the night even? I notice the chairs by the side of the van, and the gas bottle almost as tall as me. The door is open but nobody seems to be in.
I walk on, glancing back at the caravan every now and again in disbelief.
A few paces later we have to swerve off the path to avoid children on their bikes. Behind them a couple of kids are using the swings, the ‘do not use’ sign flying in the air with them.
‘It is busier,’ my partner echoes the thoughts in my head.
‘Yeah,’ I reply absentmindedly. I know there will come a time when we will go back to a certain normality but I am not ready for it. Seeing people together in groups that are too big for a household makes me feel anxious. The idea of stepping out of my neighbours sends warning signals to my brain. I don’t like it. Those reactions are immediate, a jolt in my body and consciousness that shouts ‘IT IS NOT SAFE.’ Will it ever be safe again? I want to think that yes, it will. I want to be able to go to a pub again, to go to the cinema, to spend time with friends, to hop on a train for a walk or a ride somewhere new, to live outside of the boundaries marked by my feet. But right now, this feels like a fallacy. If I pause to think about it, if I consider a drive to a nearby beach, to a hill not far away, I recoil in fear. Virus, virus, virus, my brain screams, images of sickness and deaths immediately taking hold of me. Stay here, it seems to say. It is known here. It is safe here. Stay here.
I catch up with my partner pushing those thoughts aside as I do each time they arise. I know that ignoring them is not going to make them go away, to make me feel safer or braver, but for now, it is all I am able to do.