Each day is the same. Each day is different. Today is cooler than yesterday, rain patters on the plastic roof of the carport. I am living in a town I don’t know, with people I’m starting to get to know. The country is in a nationwide lockdown. The few plans I had are put on hold for at least four weeks, likely longer. I am one of the lucky ones. I have time in the bank. I can afford to lose a few weeks here. Living with the hope that I’ll soon be able to get back on track. The isolation is easy. I’ve done hard time before. 6 weeks of my fruit picking in Australia were spent without anywhere to go, and only the bubble of people around me. After two weeks I find myself thinking of the time between school and college. A summer so long I thought it might never end. No need to go to bed, there’s nothing to get up for. I get up when I want, eat when I’m hungry. If I don’t want to do anything, I don’t have to do anything. That said, I am trying to do something every day.
The sky clears. Sun shines brightly above the distant hills. The air begins to warm. I reach the river and begin running. I convince myself it would be good to run, even if I don’t feel any fitter. An orange monarch butterfly feeds on a purple flower. A blackbird pecks at something interesting in the dew damp grass. The uncivilised world carries on as though nothing has changed. A single truck passes over the bridge on State Highway 1. Under normal circumstances, I wonder if a roar would drown out the melody of the river being played out over shallow rocks. I pass markers, 1km, 2km, 2.5km turn around. Everyone I pass offers a greeting from the far side of the track. Some of the faces begin to feel familiar. I have probably passed them before. Sweating, out of breath, I stop to take in the view. The final meander of the Waikanae river, clouds lingering on the heights of Kapiti Island. I walk the short distance back to my current front door.
The first time I went out I passed Jason coming back in with Sid on his lead. Sid is the family dog, he’s not very good with strangers. He’s starred me down a few times, growled at me once. As I’ve come to learn how to live in his house, he’s come to learn to have me live with him. I come with a couple of benefits, another pair of hands for those much desired belly rubs. I shower, eat. Mindlessly scroll on Twitter, on Instagram. I realise what I’m doing, close the applications and open Duolingo instead. I run through a few sessions, to the point where I feel myself getting frustrated. Close it before I hate it. It’s never a lot, but I convince myself to practise, even if I don’t feel like I’m learning. What else can I do? Look after myself. Manage my moods, maintain a basic level of fitness. Without an end date, the best anyone can do is try.
I try not to spend too long in the sun, in case I burn. I haven’t yet but burning is something I’m good at. I apply sunscreen, put on my hat. I purchased a set of juggling balls from The Warehouse. Having paid only $4 I should have been less shocked to find the stitching come undone after an hour and a half of use. I left my set behind. Deciding the weight was unnecessary. I wasn’t expecting to have time to use them. Now I know I had space, and how much weight was too much? The first serious regret. I patched up the holes, hoping they last the duration. I convince myself it would be good to juggle, even though I can’t catch. The voice in my head. A delighted tone, it squealed “Look! I’m doing it!” I snatch at the feeling and drop the balls. Pick them up. Start again. Once I’ve had enough of that I pick up my Kindle, dip my feet in the pool. The seasons are changing, I’m not sure how long I’ll be able to do this for. I listen to the tui with his cotton ball beard and avant-garde tune. He sounds more like a robot than a bird. Fat sparrows hop across the patio. They swarm a mouldy croissant left on the lawn. I’ve found them inside the house. Stealing scraps from under the table, around the dog bowl, unaffected by the global crisis.
Andrea brings out a big white box. An ocean of bricks. A stack of instructions. We start on the Star Wars kits. I remember my own first sets. A small yellow digger. A black haired man in red dungarees. A haunted cupboard with a glow in the dark ghost. A black knight on a white horse. Tipping a huge red box over the pale carpet. The bricks crashing out like a wave. The sound remains the same. Another place, a different box. The blue and white train railway that needed assembling. I can’t remember the train. Each afternoon I spill the box out. Waiting for my eyes to give up. For my back to ache, my knees to resist. I find a few pieces in a row at speed, hoping to find myself in the zone. Hold out, just long enough to close the book. Another model finished. The day passes like a repeat of the one before. We eat different meals, have different conversations. The clouds chase different paths across the sky. We watch the news. Case numbers holding steady before dropping. The story isn’t the same around the world. Another indicator the decision to fly, the decision to stay may have been the right ones. The expectation is for restrictions to start lifting in another two weeks. The lockdown likely to come to an end. My hope is that this decision is also the right one. That the country is ready and prepared to start again so that I too can start again.