Lockdown day 21. Two weeks ago the grocery shop felt eerie: the spaced-out queue snaking around the carpark; the sanitiser; the distancing; the grim care we were all taking; being barked at for stepping over a blue line; germ phobia between groceries and car then adding bleach between car and aunt, aunt and car (who has the germs? I forget); the sanitiser (blow the nose, sanitise again)… I had a tiny weep for us all.
Then, today, I was at Vege Boys before it opened. Whisked around, then laughed with the owner about sudden cravings for takeaways: fish and chips (me, although we hardly ever eat them) and butter chicken (her). Whisked on through the supermarket in record time and, except for two tiny post-Easter bunnies, stuck to the list. Even though I was buying for two households, it was fast, as they intended: no queue, no pause, no bagging of items, no small-talk, and anyway the new plexiglass screen and face mask between me and the checkout operator’s words made them indecipherable.
The aunt was in good cheer, still a little baffled by my insistence on bringing her groceries each week. (‘But I can just pop over the hill in the car.’ ‘No, over-70s are advised…’ ‘Oh yes … vulnerable.’ I left her to unpack the fruit, veg, soup and packages, all mildly tinged with janola.
Lunch was a Skype call with C and R. They were eating leftovers from plastic snap bowls. We slurped pumpkin soup prepared with the aunt in mind. We learned from the doctor that although covid-phobia is high, bike accident cases are way down, along with the incidence of common-garden flu. I suggest we lock down every April in order to cleanse Aotearoa of incipient winter ailments.
Much has been written about the possible awful outcomes of this pandemic, mainly to do with the over-exertion of power by governments and the under-performance of ‘the economy’. At least as much has crossed my screen about the possible magnificent outcomes of this great, sorrow-tinged semi-colon in time (it’s not a full stop, nor is it a colon, which I think of as an equals sign [pandemic: med panic]; we don’t want after to be the same as before), mostly to do with our rediscovered, revivified fellow-feeling, Earth-feeling, creature-feeling, community-feeling, feeling-feeling and the slow, spacious kindliness we begin to sense underlies it all.