Written 3 June, 2020.
Settling into the city, remembering to go out with masks and little bottles of hand sanitiser in handbags or pockets. A frantic scrounge for each when we walk into crowds. It’s so long since our carefree, but cold, days by the river. We long for them.
Marg is entirely loveable. But on our second day, she had a fall, not here, but on her daughter’s back steps. She seemed fine, though she had a deep cut on the back of her head. My friend took her to the hospital to check for concussion, and – it seems a joke compared to normal times – she was delighted with the attention she got in emergency. We’d heard that no one”s going to hospital, and the emergency staff are bored!
A man held my hand all the time, she kept saying. “All the time. He was so nice. “You want anything Darling? Anything at all?”
We are to keep an eye on her. A fall at 90 is dangerous. She might be absent minded for up to three weeks and that’s the best outcome. The worse is far far worse. I try not to live in fear.
At the hairdresser’ in Darilnghurst where I go for a bowl of hair dye mix and a brush, to colour my hair myself rather than them doing it for me, I spot pretty fabric masks on the counter, with the phone number of the maker. My dear friend, SB, who works in admin in the UK hospital, desperately needs masks; she told K on FB messenger last night that without protection all day, she cries every night. Front line hospital workers get protection, she doesn’t, and now that many people have stopped work, members of the public keep invading her office. I ring the mask maker: she’s an out of work theatrical costumier, turned mask maker. I arrange to buy six that afternoon. All I’m thinking of is saving my friend’s life: I don’t ask vital questions.
I find the house, on Crown Street, an old-fashioned terrace with a front window of smiling china heads modelling hats. A pleasant-faced woman opens the door, with hair in a long pony-tail half dyed crimson, and invites me in, scuttles a little dog off a crimson sofa, and invites me to sit. All around are theatrical props- more Queen Anne chairs, all plush crimson and gilt, towering painted backdrops of 18th century rooms with lords and ladies in wigs and gorgeous clothes, a cheerful mishmash of period furniture, glittering chandeliers hanging from a high, embossed ceiling, and everywhere, long blue and green feathers stuck in vases.
All goes well at first; she shows me a selection of masks in different fabrics. I choose six for dear SB and add 4 more for Marg, GG, K and me. Then, as I pay, she happens to say:
I was working in Germany and just got home.
How long ago?
I gaze, disbelieving.
Shouldn’t you be in quarantine?
Oh, I’m self-quarantining.
But I’m here.
Oh, I’ve had all the tests.
She tells me she can’t go in to work because someone there has an auto-immune condition.
She’ll die if she catches it.
And I think, but don’t say:
So have I. So will I.
I should’ve walked out there and then, but my mind is confused. My sjogrens came on this morning and has struck so badly that the worst has happened- my water works aren’t working. Toxins fuzz my brain. Should I leave or stay? I so want SB to have her masks. I decide to stay: If there’s going to be damage, it’s already done.
I’ve already told her i’m sending six masks to the UK and she packs a suitable envelope with them by side side- This will go through the post – apparently you can’t send a parcel at the moment, only a letter.
The little dog sicks on the floor and she calls her daughter to come and clean up. As we listen together to her clattering down the stairs; she tells me her daughter has just flown in from New York where she’s had to abandon acting studies. She’s not in quarantine either.
That decides it: I leave, And all night, I worry. This is the encounter we left the city to avoid.
I’ve uploaded a new video of neuroscience on the beach.