Everyone's tense at some level during the current pandemic, because everyone has her or his own version of frustration and hardship. This week some of our SSOA writers imagine what it's like for others, rather than focussing only on self.
I’m standing at my front door looking out onto the street. Masked by my screen door, I'm about to go outside for a walk. I open the door and walk to the gate.
A neighbour is saying goodbye to a friend. Relief! I may be able to walk past without getting into a lengthy conversation which this neighbour has a habit of initiating with me. She perhaps doesn’t realise, but I have a lot to do inside the walls of my house each day and my daily walk is necessary to clear my mind and ease the feeling of edginess. Work, write, look after two kids, help them with homework, and prepare meals.
But when I exit through my gate she waves me over, as her friend is leaving. I smile but I'm a little annoyed. I hope the conversation doesn’t take too long.
Her friend seems grateful for my intervention and hurries off to her car, parked outside my house. My neighbour asks how I am and I say I’m fine. She then tells me she is anxious and upset. I hear about her family members' illnesses and how everyone relies on her for everything, as well as conspiracy theories her son believes, such as that COVID-19 isn’t real, the world governments are using it to control us and one day we will all have chips inserted inside us and we will be operated by machines. I don’t know if it helps, but I suggest that we may never know the truth so there's no point in worrying about it.
After listening for some time to this edgy rant, I use my kids coming home from school soon as an excuse to begin my walk. As I leave the anxiety and conspiracy theories behind, I realise it's not just my neighbour who's edgy. Everyone is edgy.
David went out to the backyard and lit up. He was on his second packet that day. How could he tell Maria? Perhaps, he’d wait until the weekend when the details of her surgery would become clear. His hand shook. As if they didn’t have enough to worry about without him being laid off. This bloody virus! What chance did he have of another job at fifty-four?
Maria put on the kettle again. It had been a terrible night, and she had watched that addictive series on Netflix into the small hours. What an ending? Her breast hurt this morning, and she felt that lump again. It wasn’t a good time to be going into hospital but better now than later. The numbers were rising slowly.
Her daughter, Martha came in the door and angrily flung her bag in the corner. ‘You’re early,’ Maria said.
‘Yeah, Mum, I’ve bad news. I’m so mad. There was a positive case in Year 11, so the school is closed for deep cleaning. And I was in the gym just after this girl left it, so I have to self-isolate. It’s not fair. Shirley’s party is on Friday, and I bought that new dress especially for it.’
‘Have a cup of tea, love. There’ll be other parties.’ Gerdette Rooney
I’m not one of the edgy ones because I am brave. I will not be cowed by the virus. I will eat out, work in the office, and use the ferry, tram and train. I am not scared, but I will be careful. Science will be my guide.
Hand-sanitiser and mask in my pocket, I head out the door and along the near-empty pavement towards Wynyard station. A careless-looking young man walks straight towards me. I swerve and look away. I don’t protest. I have stopped breathing to avoid the droplets which will lead to sickness or my demise.
I don’t use my mask until I descend below ground into the airless, virus-infested Wynyard Station and shopping centre. Too many people are milling around to maintain their 1.5 metres. What I think of as a ' stupid dickhead' runs past me on the escalator, breathing heavily, violating my health. I hold my breath again. Perhaps the mask is no longer effective. It has been in my pocket for days now.
My glasses steam up when I am in the supermarket, as warm breath exits through the top of the mask. Am I wearing it the right way? I wonder. Will other people notice? I choose pears in the bag because, just maybe, an infected person has touched the loose fruit. I buy more hand-sanitiser in case I ever run out and there is panic buying. I decide I already have enough toilet paper for next time the shelves are empty. I choose a self-service counter at the far end of the row.
As I emerge from underground, shopping bag in hand, I remove the mask and put it in my pocket. I breathe properly for the first time in twenty minutes. But, I have made a mistake. As I removed the mask, I touched my mouth, nose and eyes. In panic, but too late, I pull the sanitiser out of my pocket and cleanse my hands thoroughly. Their newfound hygienic scent gives me the reassurance I need.
No, everyone else is edgy, not me. For science will be my saviour and I am brave.
Copyright to above writers.