My first outing with my partner was in a café, the first of many. She taught me about coffee but I refrained from making it. She likes her coffee just right and I have no clue how to make different ones. I order them from a counter and they come already brewed. We followed this pattern for a long time, me peculiar about my cups of tea, her about her cups of coffee.
I remember the discussion of a few days ago, the sadness that had permeated our cul-de-sac. But today is different. There is a birthday to celebrate, the sun is shining, and we’re all in high spirits. We talk about age, about skiing and injuries. We chat about food and the birthday party to come. There will be chocolate, chicken dippers, and a takeaway.
I don’t voice my next thought but sometimes I feel guilty at not being more angry or engaged with what is going on in the world. It’s not that I don’t care about how the government is behaving or how inequalities are laid bare. It’s not that I don’t see the opportunities to bring about change and evolution in our societies. But I do not have the mental space to act or think about all this.
For ten minutes, I get to know my neighbours a bit better. The short waves, the friendly smiles now extended to words and names exchanged. I want to help but I feel powerless. How do you help someone you do not know? How do you help someone who is healthy and secure but is finding it difficult to bear the mental weight of isolation?
Walking is, in part, about not thinking. My body takes over and I am free to wonder and wander. There are boundaries that keep me safe. The pavement is not for cars, the red light will stop the bus. Those boundaries are gone and a walk now requires thoughts and analysis. There are cars to take into account but also cyclists, runners, and other pedestrians too.
Today I have been feeling down. It’s not an overwhelming feeling, more of a presence hovering inside of me. It’s balanced on a thin line, about to collapse at any moment, break, and take over me. I pause every now and again and think about that feeling, that line. I imagine it stretched just right and I will the thing on it to keep balancing. And it does.
I met J on the first week-end of February when we helped the local nature reserve volunteer group dig up saplings from the grass meadow. We hadn’t talk all that much. The work was solitary and she had to leave early. But we did figure out that we live in the same street. I knew her house by the cats surrounding it and the collection of teddy bears in the window.