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.