Updated: Apr 27, 2020
By David Sherman
There is no silver, gold or platinum lining to being surrounded by the virus. Not even a plastic one. Though, in my case, there is a cloud of cat hair that follows me, adheres to my clothes and sticks out my nostrils.
Covid gives us time for reflection, if you can tear yourself away from the TV and the news on the little screens. Being lucky enough to have food in the fridge, a roof over my head and a few bucks in the bank make me a lucky man. Having a remote control that allows me to turn off the TV whenever Trump rears his ugly head is also an advantage.
But, there are other flowers growing in the manure, flowers the luckiest among us can see.
My partner, lover and companion used to work nights. She stopped a month ago. We spend a lot of time together. It’s joyous. We share breakfast, talk about nothing in particular except what a good chef I am. I admire her beauty. The rest of the day we go our own way, bumping into each other here and there. Sometimes I hear her on the phone talking or taking Spanish lessons, a computerized Spaniard on the phone talking back.
She hears me tapping on the keyboard or playing the guitar and singing a song. We enjoy listening to each other or she pretends well. There are smiles and pats, kisses and jokes.
Dinner is a bigger production. We talk about whatever, especially what a good cook I am. Or we say nothing at all. Quiet contentment is legal.
We clean, though if truth be told, she does most of the cleaning. I admire. And descend to the basement to watch a movie on Amazon or Netflix, catch a few minutes of CNN. And, sometimes, like teenagers, we hold hands. We’ve never had that much time to touch each other. The horror rages outside.
I see young men playing with their children every day, on the street or their parcels of land, riding bikes with them, shopping with them. Normally they’d be at work and school. I see families doing the same. They seem to be enjoying themselves. A forced holiday. I try not to think if they have a paycheck coming or how they will make their mortgage. We wave and smile. For those seconds we’re not under siege. We’re on vacation from real life.
I filled up the tank the other day for $25, plus tip, service included. Used to cost me between $50 and $65. This has thrown the fossil fuel industry into a tizzy, rattled the stock markets and saved consumers a small fortune. Anytime you can throw the fossil fuel industry into a tizzy, rattle the stock markets and save a bundle doing it, is a good day.
There is time to cook. Braving the grocery store, where the Sword of Damocles hangs over the arugula, is a chest-tightening ordeal, but at least I can go. The cashiers are behind Plexiglas, someone at the front door queries my health and recent travel habits.
I zig and zag and tap my card at the end of it all and get the hell out. But, now, with my partner home, I can try to be a tad adventurous, impress her.
And to cut back on shopping excursions, what used to be a daily affair, I mix and match what’s in the fridge. Yes, I can throw the cherry tomatoes in with that widowed sausage and fry sliced potatoes and top it with an egg.
Yes, I can take a decent frozen pizza and throw a bunch of mushrooms and peppers and a few slices of chorizo on it, pour a little olive oil over it and it’s pizza night in front of the flat screen.
Or, I can plan a big meal even if it’s Tuesday night. Tuesday might as well be Sunday so, yes, I can split a fresh chicken and roast it in fruit juice with little potatoes while my partner throws a salad together. For me, she adds red grapes, sweet onions and anchovies, a combination made in heaven, flavours to savour when you’re not obsessed over work and bedtime.
We can eat and chat or happily not say anything other than, “Would you like another piece of chicken?”
I tell her I’m going to meditate but we both know meditation will only be achieved while unconscious. There is no schedule or limit to naps. I collapse delighted on the bed and read for 42 seconds, curl up and ponder, per chance to dream. I do it guilt free. I have no place to go and I don’t have any plans.
There is an unusual weight in my pocket and that’s the heft of folding money. I took out $200 when my pension landed and discovered no one wanted cash. Filthy lucre is now filthy and feared. Usually, it disappears within three hours. But, today it remains entangled with pocket lint, transferred from one pair of jeans to another, one day to another, day after day, comforting in its companionship, making a poor man feel rich.
I have called people I usually only call when there’s a purpose or an invitation to relay. Now I call to say hello, how are you. Texts and emails pop up from friends I usually speak to once a year. It’s catch-up time and everyone seems to have time. Sometimes we forget to talk about the elephant that stalks the globe or the dark presence in the White House. We’re not all in this together, but we’re all in this. No one is flying off to Florida for the weekend or Jamaica for ten days. The farthest I know anyone has gone is Costco. They asked if I wanted fresh lamb chops and laundry soap.
Coming to grips with mortality shines a light on life. I’ve redone my will. Stories about people fine one day and dead a week later can do that to a person. It also made me consider the nature of work. People spend their lives building businesses, putting together widgets to make money. And the widget shop is shut down by government fiat. Life goes on. The world keeps turning without new widgets. The restaurant I loved is shuttered. I miss it. But, I make a chicken, roast a piece of lamb, make a salad. Life goes on. The lives of the restaurateur, the waiters and busboys and chefs and sous chefs who gave blood and burns and sweat, are shattered. What was indispensable one day is gone and life goes on and perhaps we are all poorer for it, but the sun rises every day and I’m lucky enough to be able to put breakfast on the table.
I’ve come to know the cat that lives here. She’s a Himalayan Blue Point that looks like someone slammed a door on her face when she was a kitten. Full grown and aged, she weighs about 6 lbs. She has no nose though technically that black protuberance emanating from her furry face functions as one. She barely purrs but screams like a crow if her litter box is not pristine.
There’s something about the clicking of the keys on the computer or the sound of my fingers on the iPad that makes her come running and squeeze beside me and stare. Her fur floats free of gravity, following me around like soft snow. She also enjoys walking on me, sitting on my crotch and staring at me when I’m watching a film, my lover’s hand in mine.
She’s one of the most ridiculous creatures I have ever seen. But, Gracie has become my meditation buddy. I feed her several times a day and query her welfare. She, too, does not have a lot to say at meal time.