Life can be separated into the time that we are awake and the time that we are asleep. Trapped in our home, we are finding that sleep is becoming more prevalent. The days are becoming longer but the nights are now so quiet that there is little to disturb those hours when we close off the world. That was the case until a few days ago when our middle daughter began to develop symptoms that are Corona-related. Last night she was quiet. It was three in the morning and the house was in peaceful slumber. I arose and thought to check both the house and its dwellers. My feet fell lightly on the floor as I traced my way in the brackish morning. I tiptoed to her bedroom and stood at her door in order to listen. Only quiet could be heard. I was aware that I could wake her if I trespassed, so I stood my ground and reassured myself that all was well. I then descended the stairs to check if any one of our girls had either got up early or stayed up late, as there was a light still shining.
Before we had gone to bed, our cat had persuaded me that a good thing would be for me to let her have a stroll in the darkness. It was going to be a cold night, perhaps frosty, but I gave in. Knowing Lucy, our moggy, she would be waiting by either the front or the back door. I walked through the kitchen and saw that it was the dining area which was illuminated and I opened the back door that leads onto the garden. A cold tide of air ran over me, but there was no cat. I then made my way to the front door and as soon as I opened it, her smooth black fur ran in. If you happen to be a person who has a cat, you will appreciate the fact that they need their independence and, no matter what the weather, the need to stroll. The flip side of this is the relief that is felt when they return from the night which can contain its fair amount of danger. With the cat indoors, and already feasting on a handful of cheesy cat treats, I made my way back to bed. It was at the top of the stairs that I felt the soft impact of the first of my daughter’s coughs. When the coughs came they came not as single intruder but as battalions.
For the next hour I lay in bed and listened to her. There were fears that trickled over the lip of my sanguine glass. I struggled to put a dose of reason into my thoughts but all that I could manage was a loose plan for what we should do in the worst case scenario. And all of this came at the end of a surprisingly promising day.
The figures for yesterday, deaths from the virus, were low. I think that only twenty-two people died. The previous day there had been over one-hundred. I was entertaining the thought that this could be turning our way; that the bumbling measures the government had finally concocted had started to pay off. The dead numbers are always announced at the end of the working day, which is somewhat ironic as fewer and fewer of us are not exactly ‘in work’. After a drop off in those that had dropped off our mortal coil, yesterday brought the news that over a hundred had died. Some of the victims were even getting to have more meat put on their bones with occupations and ages. Contrary to what we had been led to believe, many more younger and healthier victims, with no underlying health issues, had been taken. And yes, ‘taken’ is what I wrote as this is starting to become a little Biblical in scale.
For a while, in the early stages, the onset of this virus had appeared as a novel twist to the mundane of the everyday. We were living in new times, something that somebody would make a book or a movie out of; and it wasn’t scary because it hadn’t reached our doors even though it had reached our shores. And that was when I realised that secretly, I had been waiting for this day all along. The virus was my personal story, one which I had been writing about for years and one that I knew would come.
You have to excuse me when I enter into this prophet of doom persona. I think that it comes from a good deep dose of religion when I was young. It wasn’t my parents’ fault nor my teachers; it was just plain old me thinking that I was something special. And now it is here, not to do battle with the young deluded me but the me who is now older; perhaps too old. On top of that, I no longer have the blind faith that I once had. God fell off the radar when my sanity did likewise and I have spent the last four years coming to terms with a life that id not predetermined. As such, I wander through every day as if it’s my first. I have no real plans and I just take what’s placed before me.
I was out cycling yesterday with a friend whose wife took up anorexia at a late age. She had been on the wards when my middle daughter, who was then fourteen, was ensnared by the pernicious eating disorder. Back then, most people, including the medical profession, believed that starving oneself to the point of being near death was just a teenage fad, a pubescent cry for attention and not something that was real. ‘Snap out of it and don’t be so silly,’ was the advice that one doctor gave my daughter upon discharge. And my friend’s wife thought the same and did not hide her words. You can imagine our empathy levels when she went down the same road after having reached her forties. In fact, she not only travelled on the same path but went much, much further. So much so that she ended up being committed and had to spend over six months in a private hospital for those of a certain age who suffered from Annie, as my daughter called her. Evening old scores does not make it right and we have kept our opinions to ourselves. My friend has not coped so well since his wife emerged into the freedom of the everyday.
“She’s as bad as she ever was,” he told me as we cycled along an empty country road.
I understood this as we still become engaged in minor skirmishes with Annie even though she had officially lost the war sometime ago. Annie is not a virus, but she is almost as deadly.
This was going to be a listening ride.
We did just short of forty miles. The sun shone throughout and the temperature crept upwards with each turn of the wheel. For most of the time we gloried in our good fortune. There were moments when my friend mentioned his home life and there were times when he mentioned his personal wellbeing (that’s another phrase which has slipped into the common lexicon), but most of the time was taken up with refreshingly bland conversation starters, and that was good. It was the pure emptiness that refreshed us. Covid 19 may have been running amok amongst the rest of the population but here, in the open countryside, with spring peeling at the edges of a stubborn winter, we were far away from the other world.
Although I write, I have found myself to be a rather quiet man. Talking takes up time and an awful lot of the time that is taken up by talking is essentially wasted. You see, talking is functional, it acts upon our sense of being as oil acts upon a bicycle chain; it stops the rust and eases thing forward with screeches of resistance. Once oiled, a chain is protected and the gears can be changed to allow for easier or swifter passage. Talking does that, but it does not build. Perhaps, our world has been too well greased for us to take our time to think and write. Thinking takes time and time should be taken to think before we talk. Too often, in recent times, I have noticed the lack of real thought having taken place before words have been spat out. In my youth, this was a problem that I suffered from. Since my personal crisis, I have taken to thinking more and to talking less. This can also mark you out as being a little boring, so I let my friend take the lead whilst I chipped in with the occasional agreement or comment. Oil? What can beat it?
I was to be whisked back to the night in which my daughter’s coughing was shaking the darkness and forced me to climb from my bed to stand at her door and listen. No conversations, no words, just the repetitive expulsion of unwanted invaders into the blankness of the coming morning.