Many of us are understandably worried about our older relatives amidst this global pandemic. So, I am reassured when I see another illuminating Facebook post, or an email, from my dad who turns 78 in July. Dad has lived in South Sudan since early 2018, where he has been working at a teacher’s college operated by an organisation called Solidarity with South Sudan, near the capital Juba. Well, he was working until a couple of weeks ago before the South Sudanese government closed educational institutions in an attempt to stop the spread of coronavirus.
As each day brings more news of the spread of coronavirus globally, the concern now shifts to Africa where the World Health Organisation has warned we could see as many as 10 million cases within three to six months. I find myself checking the “coronavirus cases by country” tables, refreshing the page for any changes much like I used to check the football scores. At the time of writing, there have only been a reported four confirmed cases in South Sudan, a figure which has held steady for the past week. It’s hard to know how accurate that figure is. Humanitarian crises are certainly not unfamiliar to the developing country. If the coronavirus were to spread through Africa as is warned, dad could quite possibly catch it. He could quite possibly die. Despite this, I oddly feel less worried about him being in South Sudan right now than if he were here in Melbourne.
What stage of self-isolation are you at? I’m looking back at Celia of early last week. I had seemed to be at a pretty good stage considering there was and still is a global pandemic outside my well sanitised front door. I had fully embraced the ideas in those judgy “Here’s what you should be doing while self-isolating” articles and begun to use the word “pivot” when talking to job recruiters and financial advisors.
Without having a commute, an office or a full-time job after temporarily being stood down to worry about, I was confident I could fill the empty days pretty well. I would build up my freelance writing client base. I had also often fantasised about early retirement, and this was finally an opportunity to make my dreams reality. I could get around to projects I kept putting off for rainy days or not being able to do because of that poor excuse of not having enough time on my (well washed) hands. With 24 hours of every day for the next couple of months in my sights, I was excited as I started planning my week.
Starting Sunday, I scheduled morning Tai Chi with beginner videos on YouTube and slow-cooked the fuck out of everything I could find. I Instagrammed every meal. Afternoons were for walks, my imagining was that once I had built up a level of fitness (my fitness being at a level zero), I would turn the walks into jogs, then eventually runs. I re-potted plants, started listening to self-improvement podcasts and started a fresh new writing journal. I sanitised my front door handle, keys, fruit and the actual hand sanitiser bottle every 45 minutes. Mega productive.
Then Thursday came.
On a night out a few months ago, I was on my way back to the bar from the toilets when I overheard a dear friend talking about me. She pretty much went to town.
“Celia is so shit. Nothing she does is of worth. Have you seen she has a website? What for?! She thinks she can write. Those little blogs of hers are lame and depressing. Oh, and those beer articles, is she an actual alcoholic? Who writes about beer? No one is impressed.
She tells me she goes to the gym. Do you know she only goes for half an hour a week? Half an hour!! What a joke. As if that would do anything. She’s fat. And don’t get me started on her fashion sense. Does she even have a mirror in her house?!"
Her words kept coming. All I could do was stand there and take it.
I got picked for jury duty once. I remember it was summer and a damp type of humidity; the tram journey to and from the courthouse was a bit like when you blow dry your hair in the bathroom when the person before you didn’t turn on the fan when he had his shower five minutes previously. It was the end of February, and the jury summons had arrived after I had successfully deferred my first summons with the reason “I have a scheduled Christmas party in December.” Priorities.
I was actually quite excited to go to court. Imagine that I was picked to be on a jury for a case involving a celebrity? I hoped that I didn’t get a gruesome murder. Unless it was a gruesome murder involving a celebrity, of course. I consciously decided on an outfit that was very neutral. Inoffensive. The reasoning was I had a better chance of being selected that way.
As we waited in the jury pool room, I spied a mature aged lady with a kind face, in a vibrant floral blouse. With a wide smile, she excitedly took a seat at the extreme front to hear the briefing session, attempting to engage others around her in conversation, they attempted to busy themselves with their iPhones.
Today we drove to my Dad’s place to pick up some bits of furniture and boxes of various family items destined for rehousing in our place. He’s moving out and off on a road trip, to spend time up in the warmer climes of Far North Queensland. There’ll be picturesque places for him to write, and giggly chocolate-loving grandchildren to keep him on his toes. He doesn’t like living alone.
As we pulled into his street, it dawned on me that I wouldn’t be coming to this suburb for a while. A suburb from my childhood, forever linked to my parents and my siblings. Now, I was a little hungover from celebrating a wedding the night before. I tend to get a little depressed when I'm hungover. Nevertheless, I became sad.
Give or take, I’ve spent every Wednesday with Dad over the past year and a half. Just hanging. Working side by side on our laptops. Yes, occasionally going to the pub for beers at lunchtime, occasionally having afternoon naps, and occasionally one of us (okay me) taking photos of Dad napping and posting them on Twitter.
I was sad because I realised I was mourning. Sad that another little family chapter was coming to an end.
Last week I dragged a couple of bin bags full of unwanted clothes to the Salvos. The bags were those purple scented ones that smell like lavender. I held one overloaded bag in each hand, willing them not to break in my weak arms as I crossed the highway before the lights changed. I think I prefer the yellow, citrus scented bags but the lavender ones were the only ones on special last supermarket shop. Some guy yelled out at me from his car as I trundled along, I think it was something to do with my breasts, not his choice of citrus versus lavender.
That same day I also crammed a heap of rubbish and recycling into the wheelie bins in the garage. As I sat rifling through boxes in our storage cage downstairs for items to chuck, I laughed as I rediscovered stuff including a folder full of Wikipedia printouts on random subjects, boxes from items I don’t own anymore and two broken unfashionable handbags. Why do I keep this shit? Was I going to mend these handbags? No chance.
One day I think I'm gonna write a collection of short stories based on life in an apartment building. Here's some real life ideas that may feature in the Apartment Anthology:
A Meow at the Door
A party goes on into the small hours of the Sunday morning. A couple of the party guests stand outside my front door and meow.
Do they know I have a cat? My cat doesn’t even meow. Should I let them in? Maybe they have photos of their own cats. I'd love to see them.
A Girl's Gotta Eat
A Deliveroo guy rings the apartment intercom. He holds up the bag to the monitor, it looks like there’s a substantial meal in there. Problem is, I didn’t order any food.
Do I take it?
What are you writing about? You’re overdue for a blog. I feel like you need to blog more. You shouldn’t write about beer next. You should write about something funny. Real and imagined voices, giving me advice as I sit down and stare at a blank page. My brain is what I imagine a small crisp can of craft beer that’s been shaken up by a bored kid in a bottle shop feels like. Full of pressure. Pressure to write something witty and hilarious. Pressure to write about something other than beer. I need a beer to think about what I can write about to please everyone else.
Ahh wait. I think that's my problem. I’ve got writer’s block from stressing about what everyone else thinks I should be writing about.
The other day on the way home from work, a day where I sit for 89.2% of the time, I managed to get a seat on the tram home so I could sit some more. At one stop, a very, very wrinkly old man got on and held on to the handrail. Oh yes, here we go. An excellent opportunity to show everyone on the tram what a kind and empathetic citizen of the world I am. I will offer this poor frail old man my seat.
I stood up, full of show-offy pride and walked up to the senior citizen.
“Do you want a seat?” I asked.
I had a tooth pulled out the other day. This is apparently what happens to people who don’t visit the dentist for 12 years. I made a dentist appointment primarily because my darling sweet husband’s face had slowly changed each time he went to kiss me. Like he didn’t want to go near my hideous-haven’t-been-properly-cleaned-in-over-12-years teeth. I honestly do not know what his problem was. I floss. Occasionally. Turns out, when the dentist had a look-see in my gaping gob, my dear husband’s disgusted face was somewhat vindicated despite the vows we took on our wedding day to love and obey me no matter what. My teeth needed a good professional clean, and one of my wisdom teeth needed to go.
Since the extraction, there has been a slight pang in the left side of my mouth where the adult tooth once lived. The pang will subside. Eventually, I won’t be able to feel any pain but until then I’m following the dentist’s instructions and eating soft foods only.
Okay, I’m just eating ice cream and drinking non-carbonated drinks as directed (wine).
A few nights ago I received some bad news. My high school - the one I spent six years attending classes, learning, and undertaking exams - rang to tell me that they were very sorry, indeed so very sorry but there had been a mistake. It had taken a while for it to be confirmed, but it had come to their attention that I had not actually submitted all the coursework for one of my subjects. Technically, this meant I had not actually passed high school, and therefore my university degrees regrettably also needed to be revoked immediately.
I had been processing this news the next evening, when suddenly one of my teeth fell out. I fumbled around the ground searching for it in surprise, and wouldn’t you know it, another one came loose. It was so strange. There was no blood, but where my adult teeth once sat, clear gaps in my mouth remained.
Something else odd happened to me recently. I was at a five-year-olds birthday party. The parents spared no expense, hosting the celebration at a pirate ship themed adventure park, where all the slides and ropes and planks were suspended above water. Most people were happy enough to swim around if they happened to fall off the plank, or lose grip on the rope for a moment. Conversely, I could not bring myself to enter the water for fear I would drown. I was completely stuck, gripping the sides of the slide watching all the other party guests swim to the poolside restaurant to cut the cake.
Here you'll find some unfiltered musings from my brain.
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