Since daily routines have barely changed since 29 January in meaningful ways, I suppose that we are still under a form of coronavirus confinement. The biggest change was at least a month back (I honestly can’t remember) when the grocery delivery guy knocked on our door and I jumped a mile high, since no one had darkened our doorway in more than two months.
For the time being, we are stuck in China. Of course, this is the home of our choosing for this portion of our lives. Of course, flights were NEVER cut off in spite of what you may erroneously remember or hear asserted by various political blowhards in either of “our” countries. We’re not “on lockdown” and I’m not sure that we truly ever were. But the borders are closed and my consulate sent me a memo suggesting that it could be years before they open to people with my passport again, and we need to keep our jobs. Our jobs allow us to be in the same place, as ever for the last eight years.
On 25th May, it will be 8 years that we’ve been together. And we’ll also be crossing the threshold of the longest we’ve ever lived in one place since meeting (previous winner was London).
Things are changing and they aren’t. I’m listening to Mandolin Orange and pretending I could visit the Trident Cafe if I so desired. That I could swim in the river in Austria if I wanted. I could watch an unending summer sunset in Iceland if I wanted. I could go to Scotland and visit new places to climb and take pictures of and see the place we got married, if I wanted.
I am pretending in this music that the old world is still there, just dormant and waiting for me to make the choice to get into a borrowed car and park on Pearl Street, walking up to the coffee bar and ordering a loose leaf tea in a gaiwan, please. That the wide, beautiful world that I travelled until so recently is simply sleeping, soon to be awakened by me getting on a long-haul flight and appearing for another four-continent year.
2020 may be my first single-continent year since 2009.
A fair few are ripping into the travel community online, with rage directed most at those who are longing for the sense of self that the road can bring. Even The Onion made fun of us. But for me, it was never about the Instagram posts or the collection of places that I had been to. It was a much quieter, much less tangible, feeling of being able to go where I wanted to go and do whatever came up that day. To see more than just one city. More than one city block.
There’s a lot of journeying to be done in isolation. In memory. In songs. In my own body, monitoring its changes and the news things about it. Through this terror box I call a laptop and force myself to turn off at 22:00 each night so I don’t keep scrolling until the dawn over all the horrible things happening.
My contact outside immediate family members is practically non-existent. I had two work phone calls this week and I’m socially exhausted from the effort of trying to sound like things are all okay.
By and large of course, things are all okay. We have good food. We have shelter. We have unlimited access to all the information we could have ever wanted. We have time to read and rest and take a nap every day. It’s a long vacation.
Except, it isn’t.
Normally by now we’d have some idea of when we would be flying abroad next, to see family and friends and refuel the things that we can’t get easily in China. Not this year. Maybe not next.
I’ve been watching endless videos of lionesses and dogs and cats and soliders returning home.
It’s hard to imagine how long it will be before this is us.
Meanwhile, it’s 106 days. Everything has changed and nothing has, and I’m sure you’ll feel the same sometimes in your own confinement. One day we’ll meet again.