Tuesday, 20 Oct 2020

Week what? Day what? I’ve lost count

I lay there blinking. The room came into focus. Light glowed behind the curtains. I was home. It was morning. I wasn't in Paul's garden after all.

No, it was just another day in the life of Rona Lockdown. Week what? Day what? I'd lost count. The days blurred. But now it was time to get up, make coffee, start the day, start the laundry, start the routine, make sure my husband and daughter hadn't killed each other over Mario Kart already. They were arguing on the couch as I shuffled past to the kitchen, but they weren't battle-worn yet.

COVID-19 has brought closer big questions about death and life’s meaning.Credit:iStock

Still clinging to my dream, I stared bleary-eyed at the kettle and waited for the water to boil. Paul was a friend we'd made about six years ago when I first started taking my daughter to a restaurant on Bourke Street for a girl's lunch every Friday, just before she started prep. Paul was the restaurant manager, and my daughter adored him.

Once school started, we couldn't go for lunches anymore so we went for after-school ice cream on Fridays instead. For years we looked forward to Fridays at "Paul's Place", as we called it. My husband would join us after work and we all became close friends with Paul.

Just after the holidays, Paul retired. It took a while for my eight-year-old to understand what that meant, but when she did, it crushed her. We promised we'd organise regular catch-ups, but then the pandemic hit. And lockdown.

And until my dream, I hadn't realised how much I missed Paul. How much I missed the company of a friend we'd adopted as family. My husband and I have no family in Australia besides our daughter. Paul had become like a parent to me.

The kettle started to rumble, but I was still in my dream. Paul had been watering his garden. It was a warm afternoon. My husband was laughing as our daughter ran through the stream of water from the hose, and Paul's wife and I were talking about pottery. It all felt so real. And so good to be with people we loved. Even if it was just a dream.

The kettle dinged.

"Pretty good, huh?" my husband said from the couch.

"What is?" I said, as I poured the water into my press.

"The numbers," he said, without taking his eyes from the racetrack on the screen.

I hadn't scanned the headlines yet. I didn't know. "They're low again today," he said. "We're getting there."

I stopped pouring the water and looked out the window over the kitchen sink. It was a blue sky beyond, a crisp, cool Spring morning. A few blossoms from the trees in bloom blew by. Seasons were changing.

And case numbers really were dropping. And as I stared into the blue, something warm flushed over me. Something familiar. Something I'd lost. Something like laughing with friends and family around a table, in a garden. Something like hope, again.

Aubrey Perry is a Melbourne writer.

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