As I sat on the stairs, my hands pressed around the warm coffee mug, I stared at the street before me, devoid of its usual hustle bustle. The neighbourhood was silent and even the lawns needed a trim. It had been a month since the lockdown was moderated, but somehow the feeling of safety hadn't returned. The malls and shops were barren, and the school playgrounds held a grave silence. They all were a reminder of how Corona had turned our world upside down. There was an odd soul walking down the street, maybe returning back from an errand, but the mask on his face made me wonder, what a faceless world were we left with?
As I got up to go inside, I saw Mr. Simson walk out his door. He pruned his roses and got back in a jiffy. He had lost his wife in the pandemic and lived alone through the sorrow. Even though I felt sorry for him, like most of my neighbours, no one dared to go meet him. Each of us feared the shadow of Corona that may be hovering over his yard, as if we walking in there would make us sick. All left was to mark his house with a black cross! We had all but abandoned him.
As I poured the remainder of my coffee into the drain, I looked at the laptop at my desk and then at the clock. Another ten minutes and I would start my calls,another day of watching my colleagues on a tiny screen. I missed being around my desk, the little mug that held my pens, the photos stuck to the pin board. I craved for any sign of mormalcy that life offered. But standing here wasn’t going to change that. So I sighed and headed for a bath. As I towelled my head and switched on my laptop, a small knock at the door caught my attention. Who could it be? In the past six months I had barely had any visitors leave alone the courier boy or the odd pizza delivery.
My curiosity got the better of me, and I pulled on a mask on my face and opened the door. There was no one at the door! That was bizarre! Just then something tugged at my trousers. My eyes trailed down and landed on a little boy, wearing a mask full of candies and gloves over his hands. His big eyes looked at me with a questioning look. This was little Timmy, my next door neighbour. He was all but seven, wearing a red jacket, holding a plastic jar in his hand.
As I nodded my chin, he said, “Mister would you spare a quarter?”
I knelt before him, keeping my distance, and asked, “What would you need a quarter for?”
He looked at a jar in his hand and then to Mr. Simpson’s house. He thouth for a minute and replied, “Mrs. Simpson went to heaven, so Mr. Simpson is sad. Mrs. Simpson was always nice to us, she gave us cookies. Me and my friends? We wanna get him a bouquet of her favorite flowers. So would you have a quarter?”
I stared in stunned silence at the little boy. It reminded me of how resilient children were. While we adults locked ourselves into our safety bubbles, this little kid had looked above that, noticed someone else’s pain and decided to do something about it. Wasn’t that healing; moving on from the pandemic and its ill effects? His little gesture brought a smile on my face and respect filled my heart for this brave little soul, who had probably sneaked out of his house, to see his little plan through. So I told him to meet me outside Mr. Simpson’s house and not to worry about the bouquet. He scrunched his forehead in doubt, so I explained my plan to him. Satisfied with my answer, his eyes lit up and he ran off back home.
Next day I took a leave and met little Timmy at Mr Simpson’s door. We carried a bouquet of lilies and a bottle of lemonade with some home baked pie. Our masks were on, yet when Mr Simpson opened the door, his eyes crinkled, we were sure under the mask he had a smile.
Timmy handed him the bouquet and said, “Mr. Simpson we are sorry you lost Mrs. Simpson.”
Mr. Simpson bent down and took the bouquet, looking at the flowers with love filled eyes.
I followed his lead and said, “And we were wondering if you were up for some lemonade and home baked pie.”
Tears wet his mask as he hurried inside to make place in his living room. As we walked in we realised he had barely been able to take care of the house. So while he arranged the lilies in a pot, Timmy munched on the pie, and I cleaned and arranged the house. We sat on chairs at a distance, and he told us stories of him and Mrs. Simpson. I and Timmy were there till afternoon and left with a promise to return every week. Our neighbours followed and finally I met and saw people in and around the neighbourhood. Some had lost their near and dear ones, others had suffered the ailment themselves. Each having risen from the pain, but not without each other.
All it took was a step and I had moved ahead of the havoc the pandemic left in its wake. The chains of fear surrounding my heart had finally melted. Timmy had shaken my routine to remind me why I was human, that the lockdown was to keep us from crowding but not from reaching out to each other. He made me want to change what I was doing, every day, for the past year. It was going to need someone to extend a hand, take a step and cross the yard to reach out to each other, breaking the circle of another day of living in the lockdown and I was happy that I could be that person.