She elbows the latch of her garden gate, passes through, and pushes her back against it, closing off the world outside. Only then does she allow herself a large intake of breath, filling her lungs with air that is hers.

“Do come,” they had said, “It’ll be alright. Things are opening up now, and you can’t stay in for ever. We can keep well apart, so meet you there?”

Earlier this morning, she stretched her new mask in place well before the bus arrived, making her feel so hot that she was broiling inside it by the time she got on. Very few passengers fortunately, but who knew what could be lurking on the seats? As the bus slowed down towards her stop, she staggered to the front, lurching forward rather than using any handles to steady herself. A squirt of gel from her bag hardly seemed sufficient to expunge the ride from her mind, though two soapy renditions of Happy Birthday might have helped.

It wasn’t easy to keep their distance round the small café table, so they didn’t really. They drank from glasses and ate from plates that gloved hands had held. There was much chatter, more reminscent of a school reunion than a get together after just 5 months apart. She felt distracted and found it hard to concentrate on what was being said, so made her excuses as soon as she could. Let them carry on with their plans for what they might do and the people they could now see. For her, it was all too soon.

Her anxiety over matters she hadn’t been able to control was so profound that she found herself shaking, so she walked back home, despite the distance, giving a wider than necessary berth to anyone she passed.

Now, she feels her state of panic subside as she crosses her garden, fumbles with her bunch of keys, and grasps the doorknob. On the other side of the door, silence, enrapturing in its power, as she strips off her excursion with her clothes, and steps into her lockdown life again.

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Voice-Team (@voice-team)
1 year ago

A detailed portrait of life under COVID that rings true all the way through. The writer carefully shows us everything we’d never really thought about pre-COVID—a simple lunch date with friends, a bus ride, passing people on the street—as a dangerous, sometimes terrifying journey. Here home is the only safe place, and that’s its new definition. When we’re through with all this and my grandchildren ask me, “what was it like during COVID?” I’ll show them this story.

Sandra James
Sandra James (@sandra-james)
1 year ago

Very well written, Susan, and echoing what I imagine are the thoughts of many as restrictions are eased. You have described her emotions really well; I felt as though I was in her shoes and couldn’t wait to get back to the other side of that door. Well done!

Eric Radcliffe
Eric Radcliffe (@eric-radcliffe)
1 year ago

Oh! How we all face things differently, how we all share the pain of isolation differently. Let’s hope in sharing your thoughts with others, it eases your situation; that’s what writing can do in times like this.

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Jay Vaananen
Jay Vaananen (@jay-vaananen)
1 year ago

A squirt of gel from her bag hardly seemed sufficient to expunge the ride from her mind, though two soapy renditions of Happy Birthday might have helped.”

What a fabulous sentence.

The whole story flows well. Great job. Enjoyed reading this one. Thank you.

Fuji
Fuji (@fuji)
1 year ago
Reply to  Susan Dawson

Here in the USA, we were all taught to count to twenty slowly while washing our hands, or as you said, to sing Happy Birthday twice. Even still, I didn’t even “get” the soapy renditions of Happy Birthday reference until just now, reading your response to Jay. A great story always has something new in it!!

musing mind
musing mind (@musing-mind)
1 year ago

So real that every single person can relate to your story. This is exactly how we feel these days when we step out of our homes.

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Leena Auckel
Leena Auckel (@leena-auckel)
1 year ago

Great story…I loved the sentence about the soapy rendition – very creative. Corona and lockdown is bringing a whole new jargon in our lives.

musing mind
musing mind (@musing-mind)
1 year ago

Congratulations!

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Eric Radcliffe
Eric Radcliffe (@eric-radcliffe)
1 year ago

Well done Susan, fully deserved placing. You should be feeling lifted now. I’m happy for you.

Carrie OLeary
Carrie OLeary (@carrie-oleary)
1 year ago

Very well done Susan.

Christer Norrlof
Christer Norrlof (@christer-norrlof)
1 year ago

Congratulations on your story, Susan. It clearly shows not only the physical, but also the emotional impact of the virus.

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Pragya Rathore
Pragya Rathore (@pragya-rathore)
1 year ago

Ah! This story expresses the truth about COVID-19 for me. My parents keep forcing me to leave the house but I honestly hate doing that. You captured excellently how many people feel while leaving their houses. To me, this story represented the truth about the lockdown. The line about singing ‘Happy Birthday’ while washing your hands makes it all the more realistic and joyful for the reader. 🙂

Lotchie Carmelo
Lotchie Carmelo (@lotchie-carmelo)
1 year ago

Wow, very well written, Susan.A true-life story about these days of the pandemic.

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Lotchie Carmelo
Lotchie Carmelo (@lotchie-carmelo)
1 year ago
Reply to  Susan Dawson

You’re welcome.

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