By Laura Atkinson
Day one: At 8am my aunt buzzes my apartment. She’s brought groceries and a German backpacker with her. I open the front door and they both hurriedly drop the shopping on the threshold and scoot backwards. My aunt has hired the backpacker to help her with some gardening for the day, and their sun-safe, broad-brimmed hat obscures their face. My aunt backs further against the wall as I step forward to pick up the bags and she bursts out laughing at the situation. I laugh as well, and tell her I’m getting used to receiving this reaction from people. I feel like I have ‘Potential Covid-19’ written on my forehead. She tosses me the spare set of keys I left her, and welcomes me home to Australia.
Later my boss brings over my laptop, monitor, keyboard, mouse and about 1000 cables in an unwieldy cardboard box. He calls me from my apartment building carpark, confused about where to go, so I go downstairs to meet him. I take the fire escape stairs as I judge that to pose lower risk to others than taking the lift. I wave as I approach, and he puts the box down and retreats a safe distance and shouts an apology, feeling guilty for being so cautious. I tell him I understand, and I do – for the second time today I’m completely reliant on someone else doing a favour for me. I struggle carrying the heavy box up the fire escape. The jumbled cables escape and catch on the railings.
Day two: I have breakfast sitting on my apartment balcony, looking out at the Brisbane skyline. On a normal work day I don’t have time to sit outside, but without a commute and without feeling the rush and bustle, I take all the time I want. Usually at this time of day the 4-lane road below would be humming with cars, and the cycle lane would be teeming with city professionals in their lycra, head down, whistling past. Today there’s so little traffic I can hear the birds in the park.
The normalcy of my work has a calming effect: I still have to answer emails and attend meetings (by teleconference)… I still have all the usual frustrations and share these exasperations with my colleagues over messages. Most importantly we still share a laugh. Just now they’re expressed with memes and emojis rather than a shoulder-shaking snigger in our pod.
This evening I watch a terrible period drama – my favourite type of show. As the heroine falls in and out of love, I decide to reactivate my Bumble account. Surely other people stuck in isolation are wanting some company and are turning to online dating? Maybe there will be more options than normal? I spend some time swiping, wondering if I do make it on a date with any of these potential matches, when would that possibly be? Would our first greeting have to be an awkward elbow bump instead of a kiss on the cheek?
Day three: When I wake up I reach for my phone and read the news, even though I told myself I would stop because it leaves me feeling anxious. It’s something I do everyday and it’s a compulsion I find hard to resist. One news article reports that people in my situation can go outside for a walk as long as they keep a safe distance from others. I ring the government helpline to double check and they say that advice is incorrect and I can’t leave my apartment building. Gah.
Still in my pyjamas, I put on my sunnies and walk out onto my balcony to get some sunshine. It’s baking hot and the stiff fabric of my outdoor suite burns the back of my thighs when I sit down. But I welcome any sensory experience. I miss the feeling of grass underfoot, the rush of traffic as it speeds past, even the gross stale-beer smell of the local pub I walk past on my way to work... And it’s only been a week!
I sit down at my dining table for another work day. We used to have weekly meetings, now we have twice daily meetings because everything is changing so quickly. I am an efficient worker and am progressing quickly through my tasks, but I may have to slow to match the speed of evolving business decisions. There is a lot of uncertainty about the future, and it’s no longer changing day by day, but hour by hour.
Life in lockdown. Womankind approached its community to write about life in lockdown around the globe, notably a three-day diary of everyday life under the threat of COVID-19. Womankind is publishing these stories freely to show how the pandemic is affecting women from all over the globe - from New York, to Barcelona to Glastonbury.
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