Today was our deadline. It was still dark when we hugged on the driveway. Your embrace felt solid, warm, stable. Within it I felt frail. We don’t know who is more at risk. You, with your chronic night cough. The insufficient protective gear. The leaky protocols. Me, with a relapsing and remitting immunological disease and on the wrong side of fifty. Children are supposed to be okay, but what about our middle daughter, the one with severe allergies, who is taken down for weeks, even by a common cold?
Four years ago, when mice got inside, I pulled everything apart to find their entry points, which were numerous. I plugged holes in the floorboards with Blu-Tack and taped over them. I stuffed newspaper behind the sink and taped over that. I wedged an old breadboard behind the kitchen cupboard to seal a hole in the wall, and ran tape along the base of every skirting board in the house. It worked. After a while, we no longer even noticed the tape.
A month ago, mice chewed their way through the blockades, penetrating cupboards and walls. They nested in our couch. We found one in our six-year-old’s bed. I’ve been frantic with re-blocking and cleaning.
A fortnight ago, dozens of black moths made their way into our living room, where they died. Our eldest daughter googled ‘black moths’ and informed us they were a harbinger of death.
Some people have found the lockdown a reprieve of sorts, albeit a troubling and strange one. Some have found it extremely financially worrying. We’ve experienced an intensely fraught period of anxious adjustment, on top of work as usual – only there’s nothing as usual about work anymore. We’ve grappled with how to negotiate the future. We’ve assigned guardians for the kids in the event of our deaths. We’ve borrowed a caravan and made it ready – an isolation chamber; a father and husband’s new home as of today. We don’t know how long this separation will go on. Only that it’s likely to be longer than anticipated. We will be hypervigilant and alert for the appearance of symptoms. We’ll wave across the gap. Take the dirty laundry in with gloves. Deposit meals at the caravan door and then treat the dishes as fomites.
This morning you set out to care for the unwell. I watched the headlights of your truck disappear around the bend in the dirt road. I shed tears, turned and went inside. The kids were still asleep. A mouse rocketed down the hallway.
Sophia Wilson is a writer living in Otago with her rural GP husband and three children. She has a background in arts, medicine and psychiatry. Her recent poetry/short fiction can be found in StylusLit, Not Very Quiet, Ars Medica, Hektoen International, Poems in the Waiting Room, and elsewhere.