I close my eyes and imagine a map and I think, I could draw lines from me to where my family is. I think I could push drawing pins into cork boards, stretch red string across cities, and count the miles between all of us.
My mum walking to work, her small heels clicking against an empty pavement, her reflection against empty storefronts, their ‘closed’ signs hanging still against an unstirred room- the air cold. Closing the door behind herself at the care home and climbing into PPE, fastening knots behind her pulled-back hair and snapping gloves on to her sore, dry hands.
I think about my grandparents in their bungalow that they haven’t left for ten weeks and my auntie dropping by every week like clockwork and leaving groceries on the doorstep. My nana waving at her through the bedroom window. I think about my grandad moving from room to room against his walking stick and my nana sat in her favorite spot on the sofa, the patio doors open, the sun on her face.
I connect the empty spaces between the photographs my sister sends me of my niece, growing so fast, too quickly, and me not able to witness it. Swapping stabilizers for big wheels and reading books to her dolls in this entire world my sister has built for her between their four walls. The garden campsites and sleeping beneath the stars in makeshift open fields with fairy lights draped across ceilings. Trips to the theatre from their lounge, exchanging handmade tickets for popcorn and tubs of sweets.
I play the voice notes my friends send me, close my eyes and pretend they’re sat beside me drinking coffee and letting their laugh radiate through me, lift me up. I watch their worlds through a screen. We video call and I think about everything I would do just to cuddle them, to share their space, to feel their energy. But instead, we accept minimal because minimal is all we have.
And I think about him, in his apartment just seven thousand steps from my front door to his. I think about the way we get to meet in the middle and sit on warm grass beneath the London sky, but not touch. The same place we drank Prosecco amongst the summer crowds only a year ago, but what feels like a lifetime, like a different world.
I think about the way two meters can feel like two thousand when it means you can’t touch the person who feels like home. How an unknown space of time can feel a lifetime when silence exists instead of muddled conversations and clinking of beer bottles in your favorite pub garden. How canceled events and rescheduled occasions can feel like asking for us to make it from one day to the next with nothing to look forward to, when looking forward was how we all survived.
I think about the way headlines twist up my stomach and fill me with dread, but I can’t stop reading them. Hoping one day I’ll wake up and this will be over, no trace left, as if it didn’t even exist in the first place. I think about the way hope bleeds through my fingertips every time I try to hold on to it. How positive affirmations can feel like naivety and negativity can feel like drowning.
I lay awake at night and let myself be taken away to all of the places I would rather be. To seeing my mum’s face as she opens the door to me and smelling the same shampoo on her blonde hair and the same perfume on her skin. To those vulnerable conversations with friends over one too many bottles of rum and feeling so much lighter the next morning. To the freedom we all took for granted when times like these only existed at the Box Office.
I think about how we’ll probably all forget the way we felt during this, how the things we missed the most weren’t materialistic but the basic, stripped back necessities of love and friendship and being connected. And I hope we all stop ourselves when we’re out dancing or laughing over cocktails with our friends or just sat with our family watching tv and eating takeout, and we think how lucky we are. That we remember that no matter what happens, what arguments we have or petty disagreements, or rolling our eyes at forced fun and family events we have to attend when we would rather be at home watching Netflix, that these are the moments we’ll remember, the ones, that when it really comes down to it, matter