I wake to hear the usual, “ Hungry Jacks maintenance- how can I help you?” It was the 10th day of COVID lockdown.
The next thing I usual feel is Kevin’s curls brushing my face, as he rearranges himself closer to me on my pillow. I don’t think he’s aware that he is not small but rather a large golden-retriever cross, and therefore he can’t fit on all my head-pillows.
Like a Mexican wave, my dog Loui then darts from somewhere around my legs, jumping on Kevin and I to get up. This happens usually just in time for the alarm to create more chaos, and for all three of us to depart the bed at lightening speed.
I then make my way into the kitchen, still asleep. My hands operate the kettle and the coffee machine like a drum-kit. Hands cross over as sugar is poured, while the spoon stirs left hand and milk in the right.
Cup in hand, I pass Sarath ( my flatmate ) on the way back to my bedroom, as our lounge room is temporary a Hungry-Jacks head- office.
Even before COVID, our large kitchen table was littered with little islands of miscellaneous things; face-masks, a bunny-shaped sponge, dog gum-boots, car keys, an abstract sculpture of plastic bags and a shocking amount of corn-chips.
A troubled path of loose green sticky notes float amongst the mess like baby turtles, with Sarath’s writing scribbled on their backs.
For breakfast I finished off the last scraps of the vegan brownie that was looking at me, half-dressed in the fridge.
It looked like it had been ravaged by some kind of animal, but in fact, it was just me, post-1am.
Other than the obvious, I’m starting to think lockdowns are really just a human experiment to see how creative we can become in hiding from ourselves.
Only, we can only hide (or should I say camouflage) in the same places for so long, while trying to stay sane and not turn on those around us.
It’s a game of mental toughness, trying to fight the feeling of uncertainty that lingers as one week of lockdown turns into three.
And on top of everything, the endless rain in Sydney was making the feeling of unease, somewhat gloomier.
As I look to my left I see the same permanent heap of clothing/papers all tucked next to my bed, just out of sight.
It’s become somewhat of a morning routine to remind myself I need to clean them up, only to veto this idea and instead read my book- because avoidance is another key part of lockdown.
‘Growth is slow Loui, and denial an ocean,’ I tell my dog, who looks at me with his ugly under-bite.
Trying to find inspiration throughout the day is also getting a little harder, as on a good day all I can come up with is: “ Half a decapitated toy pig, without a face sits lonely on a velvet pillow , in a lounge-room somewhere…”
“BAbbbbbbbe!” A video messenger pings as Sarath and I reach for our phones at the same time.
To my delight it’s mine, as Bianca lights up my screen. She tells me in a fast dumping of words, that she has just become an item with a boy we met on a night out a few weeks ago.
“ We’re kind of perfect and he’s so sweet….. and we’ve spent all of lockdown together….. despite it being just two weeks, I KNOW I LOVE HIM!!”
I wish I could say this kind of message was an effect of lockdown but no, this was just Bianca. Her vibe was sweet, slightly manic but always fun.
Like questioning whether or not to down a spicy margarita on a Monday night… should I….. Oh fuck it, you look at each other and giggle with the drink disappearing in about 10 seconds.
“Magic,” one of us would probably say, before launching into feverish laughter, which would take several minutes and someone to almost fall off a bar-stool to be cured of.
In Bianca’s defence, the guy she liked/loved was actually a sweet-heart. Mature, fun and in the same degree as her at uni. They just hadn’t spoken until that night. Was I worried she ran into this like a haze of pigeons to a loaf of bread? Yes. But that was kinda her style, and call me sentimental but I wanted with every ounce of my cynical heart for love to work out, just this once. For her.
Another fun aspect of lockdown, was finding out new weird habits about those around you. Habits you may not like.
Like at night, I’ve started finding my social-butterfly of a dog hiding in my closet. He is usually very needy and drapes himself over people like a mink coat, however his insular behaviour has me quite worried…
I don’t know if he is getting Covid-depressed, if it’s a phase or if he is using it as his own private bathroom…
Sarath was also dressed ( as per life now ) in his new work uniform of a puffer jacket, crocs and PJ pants all of which makes no sense at all.
Furthermore he usually has the back door wide open with his heater on high, blasting his feet under the table.
He asks me if he should clean shave (which he asks almost every morning ).
“NO!” I say, for the people in the back.
Then before he can begin to argue, his phone goes off and he’s back to dealing with people he hates.
“Thank you for calling, have a nice day.” He hangs up.“ That lady- what a bitch, man.”
“ Mmmmmmmmmm,” I reply back, as trying to tell him how Drag Queens have been around since the 80’s was pretty earth-shattering to him, so for that reason I didn’t try to explain that women being assertive aren’t bitches. They were just assertive. I go back to reading my book.
The book’s called, The Different Versions of Us. I seriously recommend it during long trips with the in-laws, divorces or lockdowns. It has three stories working in parallel to each other, meaning your usually reading a chapter not know what the hell is going on until halfway through, in which you are thoroughly stressed but also wildly immersed. Usually it takes 30 minutes to an hour to exit the book.
Another thing I’ve found is that getting dressed and leaving the house also proves to be a struggle, as you have both the chilly weather and the Carrie Bradshaw of dogs to compete with.
Kevin turns getting dressed into a treasure-hunt as he sneaks off with a sneaker or two whenever you get ready to leave.
We often joke that Kevin is a therapy dog, i.e. he is a dog in need of therapy.
One of my flatmates was woken up with a panda-sock to the face just yesterday, which followed with Kevin sprinting up the hall only to plunge into another bed.
This lockdown I also thought I would be working, which would give me something to do with my time however, since the cafe is only open for take-aways, my hours were cut.
So the last few days I have transitioned back into just another coffee addict. Waiting patiently, face all masked-up and with a dog or two in hand waiting for my morning hit.
To complete the look, we are all in sweat pants and hoodies making it look like we are waiting outside the local injection centre waiting for our delicious morning morphine.
I also started to take daily runs, which is the one exercise I hate the most. Just today I accidentally chased a lady all the way from the Fish-markets, to the Tramsheds ( around 2-3kms ).
I think she started to feel a little spooked by the last km, as whenever she would run faster I would match her. In my defence, I didn’t really realise I was doing it until towards the end and found my competitive streak had kicked in.
She eventually pulled over to let me pass to which I felt both a mix of emotions, like I lost something but had also won. To celebrate I blasted Megan Thee Stallion all the way home, while hoping I didn’t ruin her run.
Lunchtime walks have also become a thing for me and the rest of those in lockdown, as we can only leave the house for exercise or food. One day my flatmate Sarath decided he would join me.
The first time I was quite annoyed he volunteered as my dog walks doubled as coffee trips and time to think on my own.
I enjoyed the simplicity and the quiet. And if we’re being honest, I was also still a bit angry with his need to blast music or the TV both morning and night.
Asking him to turn it down was also stressful, as it made little ripples of conflict appear which triggered me to think of my past flatmates; all very terrifying.
However I found after a few days the daily walks with Sarath were quite fun. I was even a little disappointed when they stopped.
Having three dogs to walk was easier with someone holding one, and we would grab coffee and head out on mini adventures. One day we went on a bread shop hunt to find a ‘life-changing’ loaf of fig bread, at the startling price of $13.
Next was the secret donut shop located in the backstreets of Camperdown. We went the long way and kind of got a bit lost, passing a Pole Dancing gym on the way.
When we finally found the shop, I ordered the blueberry one which I think was all the mismatched donut parts glued together with berry and cream sauce.
It looked like an elephant dropping however it tasted just sublime.
During these walks, we would talk every so often about a house we liked, when we spotted a grumpy cat sitting behind a window or even occasionally the sticky topic of love. He would tell me he still held a candle for a girl he dated 4 years ago. And that she really got him in a way no one else had.
I tell him he needs to move on, as there were billions of fishies out there, but he seems hesitant.
“Dating is a good exercise, even just to meet new people,” I say, hitting him with the donut bag.
“If Beyoncé has said it (which she has), it must be true!”
“Fucking Beyoncé. You girls think she’s god or something,” my flatmate says.
“I’m sorry- if you’ve been to one of her concerts, you wouldn’t say otherwise. She is a gift send to women from the heavens,” I say, with a very serious face.
There would also be parts of the walk where we would just walk, slightly spaced out and that was nice too.
To not feel like you have to constantly talk to someone for it to feel comfortable.