The cycle path runs out and I am cycling on a four lane A-road without the makeshift protection of white lines on the road. I feel like I am trespassing a space I have no right to be in. On all sides, cars and lorries hurtle past, mildly annoyed when my presence slows them down. Ahead, I can see the cycle path reappear on the pavement but it is not obvious how I can get to it. Traffic is too fast for me to stop and climb on the pavement. I hope there is a recess or I will be stuck on the ring road for far too long.
I wonder what could have made her so emotional, memories of childhood, teases and failures echoing in her mind? She had been so eager and joyful when she had arrived. But I know, this means very little. I had been happy the day before when my anxiety had bubbled inside of me.
A waft of rubber and bicycle grease hits me as I step into the container. I am nearly thrown back from the smell, at once familiar and foreign. I close my eyes and inhale deeply. Am I really going to be working here?
We stand awkwardly for a moment, unable to go past our instinct to shake hands until M. makes a joke about it.
The suburbs considered collectively, typically treated as if a distinct community or country with its own characteristic traits, mores, or way of life, esp. (depreciatively) characterized by a dull ordinariness and monotonous conformity; the inhabitants of the suburbs, or their way of life.
My breath catches in my throat, trapped within my lungs. I look back at the fox, their ginger fur set alight. We stare at one another us, neither of us moving. In the quiet of the morning, neither of us expected the other’s presence. Footsteps muffled by the mist, echoes trapped in the air, we have both believed this place to be ours and ours alone.
A car caught the sinking sunlight, the reflected glint blinding me. White spots flickered behind my closed eyelids. When I opened them again, their was one more balloon over the shopping centre, its figure small and distant.
Back upstairs, I automatically spray my hands with sanitiser. I watch the motions of my fingers woven together, sliding along my palms and over my wrists. I am unable to understand how I feel. C.’s words finally reach my brain. So, we have come to the conclusion that we need to have a redundancy of one.
I was paralysed, crippled by doubts and fears, unable to read, to write or focus on anything that was not a manual task. I remained afloat, my legs kicking frantically under water, my body unnaturally still above the water line until I gave in.
#LockdownDiary – One of many – Day 109
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
Through the paths of the nature reserve, I walk alongside my friend and colleague. She is moaning about work, venting about all her woes about customers, management, and whatever else that is not right. I remember the first time I walked with her to work when lockdown restrictions where beginning to ease. I felt disconnected then, incapable of connecting to what she was saying. I wanting to talk about other things, about our life, about anxiety, about what had happened since we last saw each other on the 23rd of March. Our lives had been vastly different during those hard lockdown months. I had been free to use my time for me while she had been working from home, so it was only logical that she had plenty to say about this.
But today, I do not feel this disconnection. Work is still distant, something I used to do, something I will have to do again, but I feel closer to it. And as G. is ranting to me, I feel a connection to this long ago world. I remember the pressure of summer days when there was more work to do than employees to deal with it, when to-do lists could never be completed, and when the non-absolute essential tasks to the business were forgotten and relegated to the distant future days of winter.
By sharing our old rants, I feel a part of something, of a world starting again. As we reach the warehouse were our offices are, my manager wheels past on her bike, a grey figure clad in lycra blurring around the corner. She gets off her bike and wave at me from a distance.
‘Hey! I like your hair,’ she exclaims.
‘Oh yeah,’ I reply forgetting that nobody but G. at work has witnessed my new hairstyle. ‘Thanks.’
‘How are you doing,’ she asks concern in her voice. She is one of the few people at work I have shared my anxiety with.
‘Better,’ I reply honestly. I do not want to dive deeper into how better is still not good. Not on a parking lot.
‘Hey!’ I raise my head to see two of my other colleagues popping their heads out of the office window on the first floor.
‘Hey,’ I wave and beam at them, the sight of them lifting my heart. I am flooded with memories of banter, jokes, and eagerness as I see them.
‘Not too bored yet,’ one of them ask.
‘Not at all. I’ve got so many things on the go!’
I turn around to see yet another colleague walking out of the warehouse to greet me.
‘How are things?’
‘Yeah, good,’ I reply again. ‘Though I’m sure I’ve forgotten everything about how to do my job,’ I laugh.
‘I know, paperwork is a nightmare, I can’t remember anything.’
We laugh, carry on talking for a while. My body is vibrating with motion, wanting to go forward, into the belly of the warehouse and let the dark blue shutter close behind me, swallowed in a world I didn’t think I missed. But I stay rooted to the spot, at the edge of the parking lot.
Eventually we all wave goodbye, smiles on our faces, and I walk away, back home. I do not turn my head as I step away, not until I have turned a corner and I can only see one side of the building, one where there are no windows or doors for anyone to see me.
I am smiling, aching to step inside still. This is not the work that I miss. This, I know is a nightmare at the moment, too much pressure applied on the too few people that have been brought back. I miss the people, my colleagues and friends that I have not seen in so long. I miss the banter and the laughs. I miss the rituals of phrases said a hundred times over, of complaining about my computer, and the silence of the first cup of tea of the morning. I miss moaning about customers, making fun of them to release the tension, and sharing a packet of biscuits or a box of chocolate to make it all better.
My eyes water with tears as I disappear into a side street that is leading me further away from my colleagues and closer to the four walls of my home. I wipe my eyes, feeling silly for the rising tears, and grab the camera out of my bag. There are no shots I want to take here, but it helps shifts my attention away from the people I miss. I still have some way to go before I am allowed back behind those dark blue shutters. Until then, time is mine to shape as I will, and for now, I want to take some pinhole photographs.