I roll over in bed and grumble at the sharp repeated note in the air. Who is taking so long to disable their alarm on a Saturday morning? The note carries on, shrill and loud. I turn on my back and listen closer to identify the culprit. It is not an alarm. It is a bird. I smile at my own stupidity. Of course it is a bird.
It was exhausting to constantly calculate distances in my head, to stay fully alert to the world around me. I wanted to enjoy being back on the saddle. I wanted to feel the wind in my hair, the prickle of the early morning chill on my fingers. But I couldn’t let those sensations dominate.
I can’t remember the last time I shot this camera. Now that I hold it I wonder why. It fits beautifully in my hands, its weight a comforting presence in my grasp. I open the back to load a roll of film and for a moment I’m lost. Was it at the top or at the bottom that the empty spool should go? I have to open the manual on my phone to find an answer.
There is this path leading out of the park that has been taunting me for over a week. I see it almost daily but have never wandered to it. It it narrow, less than two metres wide. Trees border its edges, protecting the brook below on one side. Fences keep houses secure on the other. I cannot see far along the path. It could widen into a vast field but a curve leaves everything to my imagination. And those days, I am unwilling to explore any path that is less than two metres wide.
I open my eyes and look at the sun. Its presence makes the days easier to bear. It is easy to get out, to lie in the grass, to wait for this to pass. But it is also a reminder of what I am missing out on, of what I have been waiting for. Easter should have been the first proper escapade of the year, as every year. My body rusted from winter cold, it would slowly awaken in the fields and lanes of the countryside, remembering the freedom that comes from longer, warmer days.
Later, I told my sister about our pancake breakfast over Skype. She told me about the apéritif she had had with the neighbour, a wall dividing them as they each sat in their gardens. They were beginning to cook lunch now, the barbecue warm she showed me the meat and vegetables that were about to be roasted. We carried on chatting about life at home with the children, the creative projects I’d been working on, and whatever else we could think about. My nephew asked when I would be coming to visit, a question he asked relentlessly.
I turned the advance wheel until it stopped and pressed the shutter button. The cogs moved as I’d predicted. The springs, I had not immediately spotted, replied to the movement in a rhythm designed decades ago. It appeared flawless but this mechanism had started to fail. The last time I had used the camera, the advance wheel had wrecked havoc with the film.
Her words, repeated in my ears, whispered under my breath, and typed on my screen were a reminder to let go of my daily life expectations. Before Covid-19 spread through the world, I would go to work during the week, work on personal projects in my spare time, and spend a day or two walking or cycling at the week-ends. But now I cannot do that and I have to learn a new routine.
It’s a pointless exercise preparing a cake to celebrate a birthday, when the person to celebrate is not here. But it feels more important now to do so than before. Birthdays are still happening and amongst the statistics of death, they are a needed reminder that life is carrying on.