In our ninth week of lockdown, I find myself looking backward — more of the deeper stuff soon, but for now, I’ve gone back to look at my morning pages from that very first week…
The Sunday before the lockdown began, I was tending the shop. First things first, before we even unlocked the doors, advice came in over the company email — we were to enforce social distancing measures: five customers in the shop at a time, no more. Three of us on shift; that meant that we’d have to break up our lunches in order to be able to always keep one of us on the door.
Long story short, the day ended with a grumbling queue of customers, an injured member of staff, and a death threat called in on one of the higher ups through our landline. Needless to say, we closed early. It wasn’t until Monday evening, though, that they announced London would be officially locking down.
Day One: I slept in — actually allowed myself to. Part of me still cannot conceive that it is real. In a way, I am almost joyful. Like the banker at the end of that episode of The Twilight Zone, stuck in the vault with his books: There is time now! And yet, I cannot help but wonder what the streets of the city look like as I am writing my morning pages, as I am making my coffee, as I plan all the works I will get done in this precious, stolen time. By the end of the day, I have a schedule, and a plan, and the bones of a new short story, tucked away into a document folder at the very bottom of my harddrive.
Day Two: We begin as the day before. Breakfast and coffee. Lingering a little too late over all of it. Pages and planning, and a schedule for the edits that need to happen on novels and prose poems. And by lunchtime it has already been an age. I eat because I need to eat, not because I am hungry, and back into the work we dive. Look at how the light slants through my window! Were afternoons ever so bright before?
Day Three: “Of my brief imprisonment”, says the note in my pages. And it is so difficult to focus. Who knew the days were so long and so wanting to be filled. I write the ending of a story, two thousand words over the course of the day, edit a different short, consider the changes that need to be made on a manuscript and decide how they will be done, and still it is not enough. Dinner happens as the sun is setting. I bury myself in a book for the rest of the evening.
Day Four: I start to feel the rhythms in a day, how it starts and finishes, lengthens and fades, the colors from dawn to afternoon to blue-tinted dusk.
Day Five: The first weekend in lockdown, but it doesn’t feel like a weekend, does it? No, it feels odd and stretched and quiet. The queue at the shop is terrifying, the tension in the air even more so. I cannot find pasta anywhere, and must make do with a dinner of greens and white toasting bread. Still, there is time now, isn’t there?
Day Six: Yet still, a Sunday. Feels no different, and yet I know. How long has this already been our lives? How is it that I still wilt, even in the sunlight. How is it, that with all the time in the world, I still manage to fall short of what I’m reaching for? How has it already been too long?
The next day, I stopped numbering the days.