‘How’re you going?’ I ask my friend, Sissy, as we meet for our morning walk. It’s my usual greeting. An alternative to saying hello, or a formal ‘Good morning’.
‘Oh you know…’ her voice trails off. This is not how she normally responds. I give her a sideways glance and see her eyes are welling with tears. She clears her throat and continues, ‘Surviving.’
Sissy is an ice-maiden. Nothing seems to faze her. To hear she’s admitting to just managing, and to see tears, makes my heart skip a beat.
‘I’m just feeling it, I guess.’
‘All the feels. Everything.’ Sissy’s arms wave about her like she’s revealing the prizes on offer in a television game show.
I look about, as if the streets of our suburb can give a clue to her deeper meaning. ‘I don’t understand.’ I am panting already. It’s scary how quickly one loses fitness after 40.
‘Bill’s being a shit. The kids are all foul.’ She quickens her pace and I scurry to keep up. Her legs are long, slim, whereas mine resemble the stumps from felled trees.
‘Go on,’ I say. Bill is a shit. I never understood what she sees in him, but I’ve held my tongue for the ten years we’ve known each other and I’ll continue to hold it. Besides, I’m grateful to be able to catch my breath. I don’t think I can walk and hold a conversation.
‘I feel like I’m drowning, Mare. It’s all too much being locked inside the home, and only being allowed out for things like this. Not that I’m not grateful to see you. I am. But—‘
‘Oh, I don’t know! I don’t really know how to put it all into words. It’s just all too much!’
‘I know what you mean.’ I don’t though. This lockdown is great for me. Being an introvert, I am pleased to be able to stay locked inside my home. My weekends are spent curled under a blanket, reading a book or watching movies. I love being cocooned, without the hassle of conversing with people whose lives are seamless, painless, worry-free.
‘Maribelle, as if! You couldn’t possibly understand.’ Her words sound harsh, but her tone is kind. ‘You love being a shut-in.’
‘Alright, you got me.’
Sissy chuckles. But a shadow crosses her face and she slows down. We are standing on the footpath. I look up to the sky; its filled with black storm clouds. I want to get back home, before our allocated hour of exercise is up, and before the rain pelts down.
‘What is it?’ I ask.
‘It’s my business.’ Sissy started her own interior design business months before this virus stormed its way across the globe. Like so many others, her income is dried up and it’ll take a mammoth effort and injection of funds to get it up and running again, once the world returns to the way it was.
She goes on, ‘It’s my dream, you know. And those months before COVID hit felt good. I was in the right place at the right time, doing the right thing. The business was taking off, too. It’s just not fair, Maribelle.’
‘I know what you mean,’ I repeat. Although, this time, it’s the truth. Nothing about this virus is fair. Nothing about life is fair. ‘Let’s get back before it pisses down on us. Everything always seems worse when you’re wet.’