Is it just me or does anyone else find themselves looking at dates in the calendar, at plans they had, and imagining what those days would have been like even though they're not happening?
It's mid-June now and there's a big line drawn through this week in my diary. I cordoned off the week back in January, when I made hopeful, naive dreams for my annual leave.
Around the time the global death toll moved away from single digits, I was setting up price alerts on flights from Dublin to Faro and deciding whether I needed a large suitcase or if I should roll my summer clothes into small enough balls and avoid paying for luggage.
Every week the price alert has reminded me that Faro still exists as a holiday destination - and the cost of travelling there only fluctuates by about €5, even during a viral pandemic. But Faro and my plans to lounge by turquoise pools or walk on well-paved paths by pristine golf courses is just a mirage. Portugal is there, but like many of the places I've seen on National Geographic, it only exists as a vibrant image.
What do we have to do to get some clarity from the universe about when this will all end? Does the virus have a Patreon account we can subscribe to to get extra information? I'd pay for that.
I do most of my work before The Boy Housemate gets up. That was why, the other day, when he woke and came down for his morning coffee, before I even said hello, I spewed all my 'poor me' molecules on to him.
He walked into the kitchen, warm from the oven and filled with the smell of cookies. I bake when I feel powerless. Baking is a science and making sure there is 150g of flour and not 151g or 149g helps me to feel in control of my life.
I rattled off my woes to the tune of the Nespresso machine. The Boy Housemate had his back to me but I could hear his eyes rolling as I told him of all my cancelled plans. I took him through the holiday I should have had in Portugal. The sun lounger, the barbecue lighting for breakfast and dinner. The condensation on the side of my ice-cold drink seeping into the pages of my upturned book. The ink on the page running, the paper swelling and crinkling as the moisture was dried by the hot sun.
He took his coffee and went back upstairs. He probably opened an overly-sentimental novel thinking, "If I want garbage holiday stories first thing in the morning, at least let me have the power to close the book..."
Later, The Boy Housemate came back from the Euro shop with two strangely shaped items, held in front of him like Rafiki holding Simba at the start of The Lion King.
Now it's not unheard of for The Boy Housemate to buy selection boxes in summer. Shops usually bring them out when they're close to their sell-by date, and who am I to judge a boy for saving Christmas chocolates from landfill?
But it wasn't nearly stale chocolate after all. In fact, I now theorise that there is a summer equivalent of a selection box: It's cheap, but what it lacks in elegance it more than makes up for in excitement. Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you - the disposable barbecue.
In what was the sweetest effort to make up for my lost holiday, The Boy Housemate set up the two foil trays in the garden. We don't have outdoor furniture, so he improvised with a step ladder.
We've learned in the last few months that freedom in confinement comes from imagination. With that in mind, we dragged the kitchen chairs outside and watched our turkey burgers crumble and drip between the holes in the tray.
We cooked chicken skewers one at a time - not because of social distancing but because the charcoals were all on one end of the tray and we couldn't move them now that it was lighting. We drank lukewarm Coke Zero from cans, while listening to a couple argue in the distance. We talked about how alcohol is a perfect solvent. We could hear it on the wind, dissolving a marriage and a family somewhere not too far away.
It's not the summer memory I imagined, but it is warm and more textured than anything I could have dreamed of when I booked my annual leave. If my plans were a filet mignon, my reality was a charred chicken breast, started on a €2 foil tray and finished off in the oven to avoid salmonella. Not the same, but definitely more thoughtful.
Sunday Indo Life Magazine