Our unit, because that’s what we are now, walks along the Canal Royal. We need fresh air, but we’re following orders. We make sure to maintain proper social distancing from other units, although it appears that many other units, even those wearing masks, did not receive the memo.
“It’s hard for us Dubliners to get used to being about two meters apart,” I said to Brendan Behan, sitting on the bench near Binn’s Bridge. He does not answer. The bow tie.
In our bag we have a lemon polenta cake made by the smallest people in our unit. We bring it to my mother. Their nanny Ann is 80 years old and at high risk, and she is isolating herself within her own unit. It’s impossible not to think of Red Riding Hood as we walk along the towpath to Grandma carrying our bag of goodies.
We keep a close eye on the wolf during our walk along the canal. The wolf is the others now. Covid-19 has made wolves of us all.
Margaret Atwood’s Handmaid’s Tale began with a virus. My friend reminded me on the phone the other night. You can find a feminist angle to anything, generally. I’m on the phone with people a lot more now. By the time of British Columbia (before Corona) it had become almost rude to call people without warning. We didn’t want to interfere. We’d text it first. Is this a good time to call? Is it a good time now?
Long winding conversations
Now is a bad time. And so we have long, winding conversations on the phone. We have three-way phone conversations and drink too much wine or gin and call it a party. We accept Zoom invitations. We videoconferencing. This is how we socialize.
We are there now. We no longer worry about the intrusion. We created more WhatsApp groups even though we looked down on WhatsApp groups. We verify. We just want to see how you are. We don’t care about ourselves, we remember each other, we care about the vulnerable. We are the strong protecting the weak.
We text the older neighbors. Do you need something? How are you? We reconnect with old friends. Are you sleeping? How is the anxiety? Do you have enough tablets?
We share the good things. Did you see all the wonderful Italians singing from the balconies? What about all the money raised for #feedtheheroes in Irish hospitals and health services?
We can’t stop talking. Is your attic full of toilet paper? How many employees do you have to lay off? How are the children? Can you believe we thought the play dates would be acceptable? Would they ever do the fucking ads? How are you going to pay your mortgage? Will you keep your job? Do your rent?
On a scale of 1 to 10, how intense is your corona anxiety? No matter the change, maybe we need the government, the leaders we know? I can’t believe you say that. Neither do I. Maybe it’s for the best? May be.
We are there now. It’s contagious. While eating apple crumble after Sunday dinner, my phone tells me that a coworker has contracted the virus, and I get such a shock that I share the disturbing news with my unit.
“Are you going to die, mom?” One of them asks before going to bed. None of the words I hear banish his fears.
When we get to Phibsborough, we drop the bag and cake in front of the house where my mother’s unit lives. Then we cross the road. The sister opens the door, retrieves the bag, a toddler hanging from her legs. The other slightly larger units frolic outside. “Come back,” the sister said. “Come back inside.”
The unit’s grandmother comes to the door. We wave to him. Hello Mom. Hello. Take care. Take care. Bye. Bye. Goodbye. She goes inside and we return to the canal.
I’m nervous now. I want to be inside away from my fellow wolves. I get shabby when I see my unit not keeping adequate social distancing from joggers, walkers, the elderly. I shout at my unit. I scream.
“Maybe we’ll do some social distancing with you,” one said.
On the family WhatsApp, one of the brothers said he was feeling stressed but brought his little boys to the allotment where he was happy to see the rhubarb growing again, the abundance of lettuce beds. He feels calmer now. The cherry blossoms are coming and nothing can stop them.
These are the strangest days. We are living in a sci-fi movie and no one knows how it’s going to end. We have so many questions and almost no answers. How long will it last? How many will it take? are we going to win?
We will, right? Together. A part.