#LockdownDiary – One of many – Day 22

#LockdownDiary – One of many – Day 22

Day 22

It is food shopping day again and I’m in a bad mood.
I don’t want to get out there, in a shop, when people in the streets are caring less and less about social distancing. I had to walk in the middle of the road just a few days ago, between a slow stream of cars. On the pavement, pedestrians, runners, and cyclists were passing each other by with pre-lockdown distances. What will it be like in a supermarket where I have never seen people respect social distancing?

I try not to think about it too much but it’s there at the back of my mind. My partner checks the earliest time we can go to the shop. A part of me is angry at the government for not recognising my household as ‘at risk’. I know we are not the most at risk but between my asthma and my partner auto immune disease, I feel vulnerable.

At 10am, we’re getting ready. I have hand gel in my pocket, a shopping list in my hand, and a mask at the ready. We climb in the car. My partner turns the key but the motor only sputters weakly. We try again to no avail. The car just won’t start. I feel like kicking it.

I get out of the car while my partner calls the RAC. I suspect the battery has gone flat from the little I know of cars. If it is, we’ll just have to find an alternative solution to go shopping. I think of my bike but do not want to use it for shopping. Cycling is a source of anxiety more than it is a source of freedom at the moment. Maybe a neighbour could help us out with their car?

‘Someone will be here in the next two hours,’ my partner explains after she hangs up the phone.

The shop will have to wait. We still have enough fresh food to last a couple of days. We have time.

I retire upstairs and log onto my computer to study Portuguese. For the next hour I alternate between formal teaching and watching the videos provided for Portuguese children by their education system.

My partner phone goes off and shortly afterwards I hear a vehicle pull up in our street. The bright orange van of the RAC is parked by our car. I put on a pair of shoes and step outside. My partner is already with the man from the RAC. By the door, my neighbours are forming a large circle to chat together. It’s the 16th birthday of one of my neighbours daughter. I wish her a happy birthday, raising my glass of water to her.

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 watch as my neighbours laugh, the three of them knowing one another more intimately than I ever will. I can see the tension in them. They are laughing and smiling but behind this apparent happiness lies something darker. It is too easy to give in to the rising anxiety. But today they are all fighting it because the sun is shining, because there is a birthday, and because what else is there to do?

I check in with my partner as the conversation slows. The battery has gone flat. The RAC gentleman is going to change it for us. He explains that he is being called all the time to replace batteries. People don’t know how to maintain them alive. We sure didn’t. He seems to spend ages under the car hood and by the time he is gone, our stomachs are rumbling.

We have lunch in the garden, fuelling our bodies for what is to come. The dishes left in a pile by the sink, we exit the house and make for the car once more but as I’m about to close the door I realise I’ve forgotten my bank card. I am so used to leaving it at home that I have not thought about it as an essential item. I run back to the house, grab it, and sit back in the car. It starts with a reassuring roar.

There is no queue at the shop and I enter as if it were an everyday activity. The supermarket has changed. There are markings on the floor, length of warning tape are laid out every two metres. People are wearing masks and are waiting on the marking lines. I wheel the trolley to the fruits and vegs, and when my turn comes make my selection.

Aisle by aisle, I put in the trolley what we need and a few extras. It’s my partner’s birthday soon and this will be the last shop before we celebrate. There are still no eggs on the shelves. Flour is scarce but there are some packets left. Best of all, I manage to scoop up three loafs of bread my partner can eat.

At checkout, the lady at the till is chatting away with the people waiting in the queue as she scans my items. I barely listen, focusing on stacking the food in the trolley as fast as I can. I pay far too much for the food. It has become our only luxury. Items we would purchase only every now and again are becoming more common in the trolley.

I walk back home in a hurry as my partner drives off. The supermarket part is over but we still need to clean and tidy everything. As I reach our street, I see my neighbour in their front garden. There are chairs spread two metres apart. They are having friends over for a celebratory drink. I briefly chat with them but I don’t have time to linger. I want to get this shop over with.

We are developing a routine, and for the third time since lockdown began, we set out to unpackage, clean, and tidy the food, our rhythm a bit faster each time. It still takes us two hours. By the time everything is stored away, I am exhausted. We settle in the garden to enjoy the last of the sun and drink a gin and tonic. We eat the last of our chargrilled artichokes.

I put a pizza in the oven and lean against the kitchen worktop. The tension of the day is gone and all that remains is a dull ache in my back and an urge to close my eyes. I give in to the feeling, listening to a podcast talking about Newfoundland and Labrador’s wilderness in Canada. There is an excitement in the guy’s voice I find hard to relate to in that instant. I turn the interview off and listen to the quiet hum of the oven fan.

We eat the pizza in front of the television watching an old episode of the Pretender. I know the scenes off by heart, having watched the show many a times since it first aired in 1999. I am enjoying watching it again, the scenes familiar and known. There are no surprises, no demand on my part to engage with what is on screen. Instead there is a sort of complicity between the story and me. Fanfictions and long debates with old friends changing the meaning of dialogues. Fanart remembered from a captured moment on screen and memories of simpler times are playing in my head.

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