Well, we made it to the weekend.
Just for once, I sleep in. When I wake up, my son’s finished class and it’s a sunny Saturday morning outside. Over coffee I have a balcony phone chat with my old school friend Claire while she watches her son’s cricket match. She lives just outside of Sydney, and honestly we could have been chatting on the phone every weekend of last year but somehow we never thought to, or we just seemed too far away. Absence may make the heart grow fonder, but if people are out of sight, they’re often out of mind. It’s a huge consequence of pandemic lockdown that we’re going to have to come to grips with fairly soon.
We’re in the middle of a deep discussion about mental health and prison reform when a myna bird hops up, just inches from my bare right foot. I interrupt my own profound statement to squeal quietly. Clearly, quarantine’s having a bad effect on my attention span.
Claire laughs. We hang up to attend our respective Saturday-morning family routines.
The big difference is that mine’s in socially-isolated lockdown but hey – we’re getting kind of used to it by now.
What I DO miss is walking. I start a mile, looping around the apartment in the track I measured out last week through the kitchen, bathroom, bedroom, living room. Looking for entertainment, my son juggles along. I push past him, enjoying the novel feeling of actually stretching out my hip flexors, and he starts ambushing me again, jumping out from behind doors or tossing balls into my path to make us both giggle.
At exactly noon we sit in perfect silence for 15 minutes while my daughter does a Zoom job interview. Even in quarantine, she looks more professional than I’ve ever managed to (well, her top half, anyway).
Then I get back to my walk, checking off every ten loops to keep track. I think of a film I once saw about a guy who wanted to walk the Camino di Santiago, but was stopped by aggressive cancer. He walked the length around his backyard instead, in between treatments, visualizing each section of the Camino.
I stride around the apartment, trying to visualize the beach walk near where my parents live. It’s difficult. But eventually the scene kicks in. I feel calmer, react less to distractions of kids, traffic, thoughts.
“I need to pee,” says my daughter firmly, and locks me out of the bathroom. I make a few more loops to the front door and back, but it’s not quite the same. I stop for lunch.
The weekend just gets more laid-back. Feeling creative, I take some artsy photos through the spyhole of the front door (that magical porthole) and head out to the verandah for tea, jotting down a couple more birdcalls – maybe I’ll write a flute piece with them. The fig tree is swaying deliciously in the wind like a dancer. I notice for the first time how our hotel building reflects in a warped, Gaudi way in the shiny glass of the building opposite.
Is my brain latching onto art and music as a coping mechanism? I’m deep into a grant application for a festival I started last December, and a key part of it is how light art brings joy and peace during dark times. Claire’s actually an expert in this field, and has sent me a stack of academic research on the subject of arts improving mental health.
Or maybe I’m just chilling out because it’s the weekend. I pick up the ukulele and strum a couple of songs, hoping to lure another bird. My son improvises picks out of a folded Post-it and a bread bag tie and works at the chords of “Riptide.”
The afternoon passes in a happy peacefulness. We work at assignments, then hit the dance floor with an instructor who combines hip hop moves with ballet grace. I have neither but it’s a lot of fun, and I think I’ve gotten fitter over the ten days. Quarantine hotel as a fitness regime! Maybe I should suggest it to the manager.
Breakfast for dinner again (I love weekends) and a family movie. Two of us, anyway – that’s not bad.
Are we all just getting used to this? Where’s the drama? It’s a little worrying how anything can start to feel normal, even voluntary imprisonment. I suddenly understand, just a little, that alleged captive mentality where even if you’re offered freedom, you’d rather stay inside where it’s familiar.
Two more full days to go, then freedom on Tuesday morning…not a moment too soon.