Locked-down And Out In London

April 24th

 

When the wind catches the Cyprus tree its leaves turn silver.

I walk past a woman whose perfume takes me back to an untraceable image from my childhood. Maybe it’s not even from a childhood this time around. It’s a rich person’s perfume. A person from another age, another time and place, who has somehow washed up in the strange experience two thousand and twenty is proving to be.

On Monday night I find I have been wearing my trousers back to front for the whole evening, this sums up the whole day, the whole week, the whole decade. I have had the worst week of my professional writing life this week. And previously, I have had some bad weeks.

I played the game and found the game to be rigged. The world is falling apart and all I asked for was some organisation from an editorial department that was set to be a quite big break for me. But that’s too much to ask. And I’m sick of putting my life in the hands of people who are not worthy of it.

So, I am done doing what I am supposed to do. I’m done working hard every day god gives me. I’m done. I’m on strike. I have been in bed for most of the week.

It feels as if I have been physically injured.

A broken wing.

Grief has brought out latent eccentricities in my character. A heartbreak is all it takes to turn someone from a (just about) functioning member of society to a batshit mad woman. And I have felt that break. This morning I find myself eating breakfast in the sun, wearing a baby’s sun hat, sunglasses, cycling shorts and a Chinese dressing gown.

The baby hat and Chinese dressing gown are only the start of this. I’ve never fitted in and I realise that it’s time I stopped trying. I hate the lot, so why did I convince myself I needed to be a part of it in order to succeed?

The magnolia tree blooms, like a thousand cupped hands waiting for something good to fall into them.

A side effect of going running that I had not anticipated is that I seem to be getting fitter. My lazy jog twice a week to rid myself of some anxiety seems to be having a noticeable effect on my stamina. Just outside our flat we have a near vertical hill. Running up it was a madness reserved solely for psychopaths, and possibly criminals evading the law. Now I am among their ranks. I pant like a dog when I get to the top, but still, I feel good in a very primal way (could be being at the top of a very high hill). And yet, I am wary. This is how you start getting ideas like, “A marathon might be interesting…”

I am slow to do an online shop for mother. She threatens to “mask-up” and go to the shops herself. I completely lose it, go apoplectic even at the suggestion. It is thus that I come to understand all the frazzled parents I have seen over the years, screaming at their bastard children as they attempt to launch their little bodies gleefully into on-coming traffic.

The Thursday night clapping and banging of pans for the NHS scares the pigeons and the spirits from the trees. It’s become the closest thing to a ritual we’ve had in this country for a long time.

My friend recommends putting banana skins in water for the plants. I do this on a particularly warm day, and add a bit of bruised banana flesh for good measure. Turns out it’s not just plants who like rotting banana water, within minutes we are invaded by plague-like clouds of fruit flies. Then the taps start dripping blood. Or was it frogs? I forget.

On this hot day, a man in his late 60s runs up the hill I am running down wearing a black face mask, he’s obviously struggling to breathe and is sweating heavily. I fear that at this moment the facial accoutrement is a greater risk to his life than the virus.

Seconds before witnessing this man’s potentially mortal miscalculation, I have an important realisation that has probably been evident to everyone but me for a very long time: although I often write because I need money, I don’t write for money, I write for people to read it. That’s partly why this week has been heartbreaking.

Given the context of the time we are living in, I feel we can agree that heartbreak has various degrees. This degree, a nasty, sharp forty-five degree break, is not the full three sixty. And so, though unable to fly, I can still crawl in a rather jaunty manner, and I am still aware I have so much to be thankful for.

From afar, I am witnessing an old friend right their course. Like they went off track a long time ago and this is giving them the time and space to rediscover who they really are. It’s a heart-warming thing to witness in the midst of all of this sadness.

 

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Magnolia Fingers

 

 

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