When a person is confined indoors, every day is just another rainy day.
Today, I am that person. I am sitting in the room where some of you might have been sitting for some time now. The room where others amongst you might only find yourself sitting tomorrow. Then, and only then, will you begin to ponder on life’s absurdities the way I find myself doing right now.
A cup of coffee and a chat in a café with a colleague? Groaning at having to do another boring weekly shopping run? Just another humdrum working day? All that is an entire lifetime ago. All dissolved along with the rest of my life as was. My world today feels like yesterday’s second-rate science-fiction movie.
Curious, the way online courses about how to reinvent myself or to learn some obscure hobby are becoming increasingly alluring. My diary is now gaily adorned for the days to come with reminders for online webinars and lessons.
Hours upon hours are spent in the kitchen creating culinary delights from online recipes and dusty packets retrieved from the back of the cupboard. A little ironic that nobody is here with me to sample the fruits of my labour of love.
Suddenly missing my grown-up children more than ever before, I find myself wondering when, or even if, I will see them again. I take up my daughter’s request to join her newly created WhatsApp “family” group and dive right in. Corny as it sounds, I take to it like a newly hatched duckling to a pond and discover the delights of “chatting” to all my distant offspring in one go. Maybe this rainy day will have its rainbows after all.
My friend calls to tell me about her first tentative trip out to the now deserted town centre in an attempt to buy bread. Way too scary for me! I decide it is better to bunker down at home alone. Crackers will do. My dried food cupboard is still half full and I suppose frozen vegetables are actually not that bad.
This morning, I received a well-wishing phone call from someone I have not heard from for over a year. We had both sworn back then never to speak to one another ever again after some crazy argument which now seems completely irrelevant.
I ponder upon the fate of the poor pangolin which finds itself blamed for the spread of a dreaded pathogen to humanity and wonder about the arrogance and greed of Mankind. Trawling the internet, I discover this scaly little mammal has been around for eighty million years, Homo Sapiens for a mere two hundred thousand or so. These inoffensive little creatures are now facing imminent extinction because of illegal poaching for their scales; how can we be so arrogant?
Air pollution levels are plummeting. I am told that increasing numbers of dolphins are approaching our coastline. Outside my window I now hear the constant twittering of birds rather than the hum of traffic. This rainy day might not be so bad. Maybe the cloud does have a silver lining. Or will this be a mere interlude?
Despite the rain, I fling open the windows at eight p.m. to the sound of cheers and claps. Above me, below me and across the street, windows are thrown wide open in spite of the weather. Grabbing my frying pan and spoon, I join in the racket. From the window to my left, a neighbour I have never actually spoken to since I moved here over eight months ago waves to me in greeting. When this rain stops and normality returns, I will have a new friend. The sound of bongo drums booms up to us from two floors down and we share a thumbs up. From somewhere across the way, I do not know where exactly, comes a throaty roar, “Vive les Infirmières!” and the entire neighbourhood erupts in applause, whistles and yells of “Bravo!”. Children relishing this rare opportunity to scream test out their best blood-curdling shrieks. This nightly occasion is yet another of those strange phenomena I recall observing from the outside last week without comprehending. Now here I am, partaking in the party.
By no means a regular fitness fanatic, I am seized by a sudden urge to go for a jog along the coast. The knowledge that the beach is out of bounds sends me tumbling down into the doldrums of despair.
Mind you, my social life has never been so hectic. Despite detesting all things social media, I discover the delights of ZOOM and my friends and I have a “ZOOM party” on Saturday night, toasting one another’s health and swapping jokes. Apparently, four hours of laughter will boost your immune system, we remind each other as we fool around. The banter is light-hearted and mindless, a brief escape from the interminable solitude of the past twenty-four hours. We finally hang up when our humour becomes darker and the mood turns morose. Doom and gloom has become the order of this rainy day. The bottle of wine is finally empty.
Sleep, when it finally arrives, is fitful and light.
Never having been caught up in the midst of a war zone in my sheltered life I cannot say for sure, but this curfew feels as if it might be eerily reminiscent.
Only a single person per household is allowed outside to buy essential food from the nearest food store.
Any exercise outside the home, should one feel so inclined, is limited to a maximum of one hour and must remain within the radius of a single kilometre.
There are exorbitant fines for any individual stopped in the street without a signed, dated official document quoting the precise time of leaving home and a reason chosen from a brief list of authorized options. Would it be a tad too cynical of me to wonder if one of the reasons behind such an extortionate punishment is that the Government needs a little cash to replace lost income from speeding fines? No, stop! I berate myself for my ever-increasing feelings of paranoia.
Drones with loudspeakers fly overhead, ordering any wayward wanderers to return home immediately.
Today is day eight of a complete lock-down, and yet I fear this seismic quake which has tipped my world upside down has far from settled.
Fewer than ten days ago, I observed the citizens of Italy as if they were from a distant continent as they told their tales and issued their warnings and prophecies of doom. On that sunny spring day, I and the people around me scoffed at what we dismissed as a population’s mass hysteria and global panic, just as I expect some of you will be scoffing at these words of mine. Until, that is, the rain begins to fall where you are too. As it will.
The whole world is all in this together; we are all in the same boat. Or are we?
Will the single mother with her boisterous toddler in their cramped bed-sit flat experience this rainy day in the same way as the affluent family in their luxurious villa complete with swimming pool and garden? I do not think so. How about the smiley, wrinkled old man with the unkempt beard and holes in his trainers who waits by the traffic lights with his windscreen cleaning-brush? What will this rainy day mean to him?
I sit here inside my room whilst the rain falls outside and hope for the rainbow to show. There has surely got to be a rainbow.
Maybe, just maybe, there is a chance that we, the human race, will use this period spent inside on this rainy day to reflect upon the lesson of our life’s insanity. Dismiss me as a scaremonger if you will, but I say that our world will never be the same again. Whatever happens, we can and should join forces to catch and use the next rainbow to transform our future world into a better place.