I went to the supermarket for the first time in four days on Tuesday. When I walked into the kitchen on my return home, having not seen my housemates since we made a group trip to the local bottle shop (I think this was illegal) the night before and then worked through our chosen booze while watching a film, I was immediately met with questions. Not because they are keeping tabs on me (they are) but because the likelihood of one of our chosen shops becoming a Tier 1 site is becoming more apparent every day and no one wants to deal with quarantine.
We will all go through the motions of checking venues of exposure over the next few days. We will message the group chat referencing one housemate’s huge night before lockdown, whether someone was on that particular train line, were you at that bar, did you go to that specific Coles on that specific day? This is our fifth time around. Lockdown has just been extended. We are all so tired but keeping our spirits up for the benefit of each other, so thankful for each other.
As I write this I am sitting with my laptop at the kitchen table while the three boys time their individual dinner preparation and how long they each need to use our gas stove. Two of them went to the supermarket (I think this was also illegal?) and I asked them to pick up some things for my own dinner. Now we’re all negotiating when it is our turn to use our tiny kitchen, where is the tarragon, how long do you need the oven, have you seen the strainer, do we both need the giant pans at once?
Lockdown gives us one thing and it is time with each other — if it weren’t for this, we would all be at the pub with our friends or out for a meal or playing a gig. I might still be at the kitchen table writing, unless one of them had a show, in which case I would venture out and drink the same amount of wine but in a public place (frowned upon by the entire household, including me).
And there are so many things it takes away. In the time between my last blog post and now, my dad has been diagnosed with a degenerative brain disease while I am on the other side of the world. If we weren’t in covid times I would have already flown to him. I would be there to go to his appointments and monitor his progress and listen to his shit-talking in person instead of on the phone. I would take the weight off my sister who is the only one of us there and is constantly scheduling and planning and updating and planning again. I would be living my life beside his diagnosis, I would be helping him use his phone and order food and recognise his neighbours and respond to emails. But instead I am writing about it on this ridiculous blog because I cannot get to him.
We already have enough lockdown discourse; the last thing any of us needs is more content written about what it has ruined. But when I ask my housemates what the biggest aching part is for them, one of them justifies why he spends so much time in his room, because mostly he can’t deal with conversations with the outside world. The other one is wondering what the outside world will be like when we’re back and feels fatigued by the very idea of trying to get there. The other is sick of the sameness of everyday; he says that memory has become an abstract concept because the days have blended into one. How did we spend his last birthday? Will we do the same this year? One of them talks about his anger for so much being taken away from him — he knows this is the time he should be using wisely and he can’t make the most of it.
I am as angry as these boys who seem to take everything in their stride but are all suffering in similar and different ways. I have started my second semester of school this week, which was planned on campus but is now online again because of lockdown, and I am working two days a week at the bookshop, for which I am grateful, but is a small sadness in itself as my income has been cut in half. My best friends have lost gigs because venues have been shut down and I’m getting Facebook notifications for the last weekend of trading for cafes that are due to close. I can’t apply for jobs in my industry because it is precarious and terrifying and I cannot risk a trial period to then be made redundant because what if I can’t pay my rent? The boy I’m seeing is finding it hard to get out of bed and there are moments in each day when I feel incredibly alone despite living in a house full of people.
But there are so many others who are worse off. Everyone has lost something. Someone has lost more than you. There are 21st and 18th and 30th birthdays, jobs and headline shows and money and opening nights and plane tickets. So many funerals and birthdays and first dates and book launches and heartbreaks and big projects that all deserve more than what the world can give them right now. Many people do not share a home with three boys they can write about and are instead bearing the brunt of this by themselves.
It feels wild to me that we aren’t all in a constant state of mourning for what could have been, what we have lost and the way we wish things were had the last 18 months not unravelled whatever we envisioned for ourselves by now. I am mourning every day. Maybe everyone is but we aren’t talking about it. Maybe everyone is just keeping it together for the sake of each other, so thankful for each other.