Life in lockdown
I stroll into my local coffee shop, mask firmly fixed over my mouth and nose. I greet the barista and order my soy latte. My mind drifts to a visual of the tower of disposable cups stacked on my kitchen bench. “Minus the lid, please”.
I wait 1.5 metres from the person next to me, who mumbles words from behind his mask and points at the TV screen. 515 new cases across Victoria today, slightly up from yesterday’s 437. We synchronously shuffle further apart and I fold my arms across my chest. Best to keep hands hidden from any germs that might cut through the layers of sanitiser.
It is July 26th 2020, seven months since Covid-19 first landed in Australia. Four months since Victoria declared a state of emergency.
I open my laptop to see four smiling faces staring back at me. It’s the second zoom trivia I’ve had with my family this year. They all have the golden Queensland glow about their skin and no eye bags. My face is pale with eye bags a divine shade of magenta. They ask how I’m doing and I give the same melancholy answer. “Yeah you know… taking it day by day”. The last of my freelance clients dropped off a few weeks ago and it’s been five months since I left the house for a non-essential reason.
It is August 29th 2020 and Victoria is averaging 108 new cases a day. On the downhill slope at least.
Spring blooms with beautiful native wattles appearing, and migratory birds landing on our southern shorelines. There’s a sense of change in the air as case numbers drop and businesses reopen.
I manage to sneak back to Queensland between lockdowns at Christmas. The summer sun is soothing on my vitamin D deficient skin. My sister and I ride bikes and laze on the beach and normalcy feels within arm’s reach.
The freedom ends when new cases arrive in time for New Years Eve and the race to get back to Victoria before the border closes is on.
Days start to blur together, with surfs and beach walks filling the void. My analytical mind can’t help but think about time as a construct, not something I need to do anything with.
I scroll through BBC global to gain some perspective from the small and slightly isolating island I live. The headlines send a pang of guilt down my spine. Australia’s place in this apocalypse is one of privilege in comparison. I close the browser and return to my fiction novel. Dissociation feels safer.
It is January 21st 2021.
I reach for my phone and dial work’s free therapy service. Apathy has overtaken and I have been sitting far too still lately.
“Focus on what you can control, keep healthy eating habits, get outside in the sun and exercise for those two precious hours a day.” The advice feels redundant to my foggy brain.
It is February 14th 2021 and Victoria has just entered a 5-day snap lockdown after a new variant called Delta arrives in Melbourne.
Happy Valentine’s Day xoxo Covid
March is slow and soft. The days float by with ease and I feel calm and happy for the first time in months.
April is a little faster, with work conferences and events starting to weave their way back into my weeks. I am excited by the prospect of Victoria opening up again but already miss the slowness.
In May and June, Covid news doesn’t take up any space in my mind as I am preoccupied with an ankle injury from a short-lived soccer league. Eight weeks in a cast and a lockdown of my own, with even tighter restrictions on movement. I struggle to think about the pandemic or anything heavy so I concentrate on eating delicious food and sitting in the sun instead.
It is now July 29th 2021 and Victoria has just come out of another two week lockdown, after the pesky Delta made her way into the community again. It feels like groundhog day.
How much longer will these intermittent lockdowns continue? I kind of want to sleep until it’s all over, but I know there’s still beauty to be found in the small daily motions, so I pour myself a cup of coffee and step outside to sit in the sun again.