Woohoo – halfway through quarantine! We’ve made it this far, so I’m pretty sure we’ll make it the rest without any major collateral damage. But more and more, people are asking the big question “How are you?”
I honestly don’t know what to say.
“Tired” is a great word right now. I got up for a 4:30am Zoom presentation today (9:30am for more civilized folks in Tacoma) and my son’s back to 2:30am starts for school.
“Sore” is another good description. Six days straight of dance workouts, pushups and crunches combined with the anatomical delights of a sofa bed and essentially sitting on my butt all day long are beginning to make themselves felt.
We’re definitely well-fed. Too well-fed, really. The caterers outdo themselves today – Cornish pasties, cakes, endless salads, frittatas – and we decide to celebrate the halfway mark by ordering in some Malaysian laksa and noodles from a local restaurant. The fruit bowl has taken over the entire TV shelf, and let’s not even talk about Tim Tams.
Even our mental health is pretty good, although the days are definitely blurring into each other and maybe I should be concerned that I can’t remember what happens unless I make notes for this blog.
But I notice we’re all a lot shorter on temper than usual. The kids lie around a lot, and amuse themselves by experimenting with new ways to sneeze. Surely that’s not normal?
And then there’s the door.
It’s hard to describe the semi-mythical pull of that entry door to our apartment. We came through it on Day Zero and haven’t been fully back out since. We pop our heads out to collect food and put out the garbage, occasionally catching a glimpse of the hotel elves as they scuttle away, masks firmly on. Down the end of the corridor is a chair. Sometimes there’s a masked, suited guard sitting in it – but sometimes it’s strangely empty. Only once have I seen anyone else: our next-door neighbors, when we accidentally popped out simultaneously to pick up dinner.
It was a shock.
Because that door is taking on fantastical properties. Opening onto a corridor we can never enter, leading to a futuristic Covid-free world we can only spy from our balcony, it’s like a magnet, the embodiment of every magical door in every fantasy novel you ever read. It’s the wardrobe door in Narnia, the doors to other loops in “Library of Souls,” the Leaky Cauldron in “Harry Potter” and pretty much every single door in the whole of “Alice in Wonderland.”
Sometimes I put on my mask and peep outside, just to see if I’ve entered “The Matrix” yet.
So when the nurse calls in the morning and asks “How are you?” in that chirpy Scottish accent, I’m a bit uncertain how to reply. Where do you start?
“Ah – no Covid symptoms,” I end up mumbling.
My sister calls, chatting and making sure we’re okay and procrastinating going to work. My other sister (in Queensland) emails, asking how we are and thanking me for her Christmas card, which just arrived.
Then Dad calls after lunch. He’s in between three CT and PET scans at the hospital to see how the cancer is progressing. (His wry answer: “I don’t know why they do this, I can tell you what the results are going to be.”)
We chit-chat a bit, he’s tired but not too tired to tell me a joke he regularly shares with the radiologist, who has the same dark sense of humor. Whenever he gets a scan, he has to fill in the forms: “What is your name?” “What is your age?” “What kind of cancer do you have?”
Then there’s the punchline question: “Are you well?”
I burst out laughing. “Really?”
“Yes, really!” Dad replies with an audible eye-roll. “Can you believe it?”
A range of Monty Python-esque answers run through my brain: “I’m not dead yet!” “I’m getting better!”
He hangs up to go have the last scan while Mum waits in the waiting room and balances their bank accounts. She sympathizes with my lack of interest in the hotel manager’s art package.
“They always made us draw pictures in Grade 2,” she says. “I could happily write a page of words but I hated doing those pictures.”
Feeling supported, I head out to the balcony to record a flute session, requested by a friend who’s following my blog. It’s hot, the phone keeps running out of juice, and I have to prop it on an upturned bin balanced on the ironing board to get anything like a good angle. Trucks rumble noisily below. Nobody’s paying attention. I fumble.
Then I slow down for “Be Thou My Vision,” that old Irish hymn that’s a favorite of both mine and Dad’s. I get out of my fingers and into the music, and suddenly over in the Moreton Bay fig I hear birds calling, chirping, trilling along with the ancient Celtic tune. We play together for awhile, united in wordless song.
Finally I smile, stop the recording and head inside for dinner.
Yes, I’m well. Thank you.