How have the last couple of months been for you?
We all have our own lockdown stories to share – of challenges and kindnesses, break-ups and reconnections. In my own case, I found myself taking on responsibility for the wellbeing of my mother-in-law, an independent lady in her nineties who has recently survived cancer and chemo, and whose health remains fragile. While there has been lots to cherish, it’s not been an easy time.
One thing is for sure, whenever we do all finally emerge into the world, we will find it changed.
While I haven’t used lockdown to learn a new language or master a fresh skill, here is a (very) short story…
It started at night. She found herself standing in the yellow light of the fridge, her chewing mouth crammed full of bitterness. She realised she was holding a packet of spinach that had been ripped open, some of the leaves spilling to the ground, where she bent to pick them up and eat them.
In the morning, she woke and wondered at her dream. Muzzy-minded from sleep, she opened the cupboard to retrieve her favourite mug, and stepped on the discarded plastic bag on the kitchen floor. For a second or so, the craving returned. She blinked and it was gone. She made herself two slices of toast and went about her day.
The next few nights were much the same, only now she knew she wasn’t dreaming. She would roll out of bed and grope her way along the inky walls to the kitchen. On the third night, she paused in the hallway. In the dark, she could smell the pot plants on the windowsill. Her fingers plucked greedily at the plump leaves and pushed them between her lips. The taste didn’t bother her; only the urgency to eat; to fill herself up.
When she went to the supermarket for her weekly shop, she filled her trolley to the brim with salads, fruit and vegetables. The teenage shop assistant with the piercings nodded his approval.
At home, she ran out of space to store everything. But it didn’t matter. She simply eased herself down to the floor among the unpacked bags. And started to eat.
She couldn’t have said how long she was there, moving about and munching. She knew the phone rang once or twice, but it wasn’t important. There was nobody she wanted to talk to.
Evening fell; the shopping bags were sagging, crumpled and empty, and the fridge door hung open, the shelves stripped bare. She felt very tired. All she wanted was to sleep.
She wriggled and stretched and crawled till she found herself high up in a corner of the ceiling, her skin sticking to the Artex. There was a not unpleasant sense of splitting as she turned herself about, and settled down, tight and snug, light as paper.
Everything that had been was ending. A sensation of dissolving, liquefaction and release. Ready, now, slowly, slowly, to begin again.