**Basically a live stream of an internal monologue which is not designed to make a great deal of sense, because nothing about the current situation does**
Last Sunday, I was planning to spend Wednesday evening at my elderly parents’ house for dinner and an overnight stay. I had some reservations over whether or not it was totally safe to do so, but wondered if I was just being too paranoid. I believed that by taking all relevant precautions, it would be okay. After all, I have been washing my hands increasingly frequently, have avoided crowds, hugs and touching my face, and have no symptoms. It’s fiiiiine. They need the company and so do I.
On Monday, I decided against it. My parents asked me not to go. Not worth the risk. What if I sat on their sofa whilst wearing clothes that somebody in passing might have coughed towards in recent days, their droplets caught in the fibers? What if my parents then sat down on the same sofa, and then touched their face some time later? Just not worth it. Instead I’ll just pop round, drop off their milk (as they are advised to avoid supermarkets and don’t have the confidence in online shopping to take that route), pick up my parcel and come back home. That’ll still be useful. That’s still contact.
On Tuesday I wasn’t sure if I could even do that. Leave them a bottle of milk? That I bought in the supermarket, that I touched? That other people possibly touched too? What if the person stacking the shelves had COVID 19? What if the person behind the till had COVID 19? What if a customer who had COVID 19 touched the bottle whilst picking up their own. What if I have COVID 19? I may not know for another fourteen days, none of the people listed above would. But my parents still need milk. And they can’t go out and buy it for themselves because they fall under one of the groups identified as high risk by the government – both over seventy and my dad with high blood pressure – though you wouldn’t know it.
On Wednesday, after my third (of possibly thirty, or three hundred, who knows) days alone in the flat working from home, I’m driving to my parents’ house wearing a pair of pink washing up gloves I’ve owned since moving in here, but have never had reason to use. Today they’re finally presenting their real value, because the door handle to my block of flats might be smeared with COVID 19 unknowingly placed there by another resident. Then I’d touch the bags containing the milk. Then they’d touch those bags, and then touch the bottle of milk when opening it. So perhaps, for the best, I’ll wear the gloves and we’ll just leave the items in the garage for a day so the germs have time to die out. But that’s maybe not even enough time. And then… what do you do about the items that need refrigerating? Maybe you just have to spray the packaging with Dettol. And handle it with gloves until you do.
That’s as granular as my brain’s understanding of this shit game of Tetris can make the process right now, but after another few government press conferences and horrendous headlines, perhaps we’ll find ways to break it down even more. We are still in the early days. I know that. It’ll get much harder before it gets even slightly easier.
I pull up outside the front door of what was my home for many years and knock, then spring away. My parents answer the door. There they are, in real life. It may have only been a few days, but in the gravity of the situation I feel like a teenage girl who is finally seeing her favourite popstars on stage having previously only ever seen them on Top of the Pops or in magazines. I want to give them both a hug and a kiss more than anything in the world, but I can’t. It could maybe kill them. It seemed far fetched last week. Today much less so.
We exchange bags whilst maintaining a two metre distance from one another at all times, circling back and forth like two magnets repelling one another.
I look through the window into the living room to see my beloved cat, Scampi, fast asleep, oblivious to what’s going on in the world. The fact that all they ever do is go on walks, eat, sleep and don’t have to worry about money or pandemics has meant that I’ve often wished I was a cat.
Today even more so.
“Coronavirus? Meow. What’s that. I’m having tuna tonight, and I’m overjoyed about that.” (Scampi’s internal monologue)
I drive away from the house as quickly as I arrived because the sight of my mum’s tears and the parents I love and worry about but whom I can’t hug is crippling me. The former home I can’t even step into.
But, crippling me even more is the guilt for feeling the way I do, because I am one of the very lucky ones. I can see my parents. They live nearby. They are still alive. They have one another. What gives me the right, at all, to be upset, when so many others have it far worse: those with no remaining family, those who live far away from their families, those currently experiencing domestic abuse and for whom 14 days of quarantine is a terrifying prospect, those frantically working out how to pay their next bills in the wake of an economic crash, those with huge underlying health concerns already. I could be here a while.
I am so cross with myself for crying, but the inner child within me needs me to do it and get it out my system. To recognise that despite the blessings, the situation which we all face at the moment is still incredibly shit.
This is a mad time and it’s still only the early stages.