31 x 31
January 1, 2021 § Leave a comment
It’s January, 2021, and we’re still in another form of lockdown. This time it feels a bit worse. No Christmas ahead, just dark nights, cold days, and people getting sick. So, to keep busy, I’m going again with the short pieces. This time it’s January, so 31 x 31.
We yawn our way through the weekend, through the year. We avoid travel programmes because everywhere we see, we want to be, and count on March, May, the summer being better.
I go for a walk with one other person. When it rains, we sit in a bus shelter, like teenagers. The last time I did this, we were drinking White Lightening.
With her walking frame, Lil steps out most days. Today, when she crosses the park, and her frame gets suck in mud, it’s a boy in a hoodie who frees her.
On the way to buy milk, Barry sees three homeless people gathered round a shopping trolley, laughing, joyful. There is no one else in the street, like lockdown is their time.
Babs sends her friend, Carys, a small tomato plant.
“I have one too. We can grow them together, while apart.”
“Are in-door tomatoes even a thing?”
“Hon, everything’s a thing now.”
Ali went to a big school, fifteen hundred kids. Now, as she waits for her fifth Zoom of the day, she thinks, “A hundred thousand people. Sixty six times my school.”
Of course, we are the lucky ones, not on a ventilator or caring for someone on a ventilator, but still, there is only one question.
“What’s for dinner?”
It’s not enough
It’s the first snow the little ones can remember so they leap about, catching flakes on their lips. They build a snowman. Dad puts a mask across the already melting face.
On Brandon’s seventeenth birthday, they sit freezing in the grey park.
Jamie hands him a can of beer. “Yeh, but think of the parties, when this shit is done.”
“We had an online away-day this week,” says May.
It’s their Friday Zoom, the three friends, with g&t’s, talking about work and children and how to drink less.
“Utterly ridiculous, obvs.”
In the student house, Callum says, “Scientists say we have to do this until May.”
“I hate scientists,” says Leo. “Yes, they’re brilliant and always right but I bloody hate them.”
Amir has had enough. “Why is there football on at 6pm, midweek? Is this the Premiership or something else? Lockdown has crapped all over my fantasy team. I can’t keep up.”
On the last day of Trump, Melanie opens a bottle of champagne. She makes two French 75s and smiling, hands one to Karen.
“Babe, you’ve got to toast what you can.”
After Brian and Claire book their vaccinations, they discuss what to wear. Brian hasn’t been out since March. He looks through his ties and polishes his shoes. Claire irons a blouse.
In the supermarket, Maz recognises a face from TV. Above his wonky mask, the actor’s glasses steam up. For a minute, it does feel like we are all in this together.
They worry about the car. Parked on the street, it looks neglected, splats of pigeon poo sticking to the windows. They half expect to find someone living on the back seat.
She knows he is better with his friends, but Nancy misses Alfie, away at university. She wonders how people coped during the War, saying goodbye to sons, not hearing a word.
Bibby makes the mistake of watching the news. Usually, she avoids it, but sometimes John Snow pops up before she realises. A new strain in Brazil. Bibby switches over to Corrie.
“How much harder can I stay at home?” says Milly, contemplating a harder lockdown.
“It’s all that click and collect,” says her mum. Milly sighs. “So Covid’s the fault of Argos?”
Wearing his Liverpool top, Carl turns on the TV for the game.
“That Johnson, he better not cancel football.”
“They need to stop hugging,” says Dawn. “And singing ‘Someone Like You.’”
Brendan and Flora wait for their vaccine appointment. Both in their 80s, they wonder if they’ve fallen off the list.
“Like the time we got bumped from that flight to Alicante.”
Samir runs late at night. He passes the Covid-locked museum and wonders why all the lights are on. A Chinese vase is illuminated in the high window, secret, but still there.
Coming off shift, nurse Aziza peels off her mask. Her face is raw, a deep welt on her nose. Management recommends zinc oxide, but she’d prefer a month in the Maldives.
As they don’t have a laptop, the school says Sky can go in. The parents’ WhatsApp is pretty judgmental though, so they leave by the back door and don’t tell anyone.
Next door, the Morgans – Mr, Mrs and the teenage twins – are isolating. Mrs Morgan texts her neighbour.
“We’re tired, bickering, but ok. I can’t taste chocolate though, so what’s the point?”
They watch Trump nuts storming the US Capitol.
“This is shocking,” they say, ‘but it’s a relief too. Terrible news from somewhere else and not 1000 people dying on our doorstep.”
Student Dan wants to leave.
“I could go right now,” he tells his dad. “My mental health will suffer if you keep me here.”
“Sorry, son. Blame Boris. Oh, and vote.”
“I can’t do this until Easter,” says Amy.
“Back to work though. More structure. That helps,” says Lemi, her husband.
Amy agrees but has a little cry before her first Zoom.
Carla’s mum tells her that the new strain has two arms.
“So now it can grab on twice as powerfully. That’s the kicker.”
Carla pictures a red M&M, with evil eyebrows.
Bel is doing #DryJanuary. “It’s imperative. I’m in a wine fuelled spiral.”
“I understand,” says Nat, nodding, “but I’ve been perfecting my dry Manhattan, and anyway, the cases are still rising.”
They went to bed after midnight, but at 3am she got up. Standing at the window, eating the purple Quality Street, she couldn’t decide if that feeling was hope or dread.