If nothing else, life in lockdown has confirmed how much I need other people around.
You’d think this might be for hugs, deep conversation, and maybe chipping in with the odd bit of housework, but no.
I just need them to be their natural, flawed selves in my actual presence, because this confirms a) that they’re human, and b) so am I.
I’ve found that excessive alone-time leads to excessive self-criticism, because there are no breathing reminders that it’s OK to be in a shitty mood, or be a bit crap at something, or look like hell.
(It’s like when your mind worries about how you’re going to look on the beach, and then you go, and you realise with a lovely burst of relief that nobody else looks like a swimwear model either, they’re all just having a nice holiday at the seaside.)
I’ve also noticed that, without the daily clamour of reassuring human voices, I’m more paranoid about snippets of everyday life that would otherwise go boringly unnoticed.
Things like whether the bottle of eye wash I bought recently was mis-handled. What if, instead of a nice, soothing solution, a distracted factory worker who’d just lost a beloved family member to Covid accidentally filled it up with hydrochloric acid?
Not only would I lose an eye, but that factory worker would lose their job… and that’s probably the one blessed thing that’s keeping them going in life.
If that wasn’t bad enough, I’d have to sue them for damages resulting from the fact that I wouldn’t be able to work as much with just the one eye. Especially if it was the left one, which has always been the weaker of the two.
Anyway, I opened the bottle and the eye wash smelt a bit ‘chemical’, so I’ve left it for now.
Another example involves the dropping-off of my recently signed-and-witnessed Will to the writer’s office.
(Morbid, I know. But I lost a good friend to Covid at the start of the year, and since she was only a little bit older than me, I felt compelled to get my affairs in order, just in case.)
The writer’s office was closed. But as I attempted to push the too-large envelope clumsily through her letterbox, a man came out of the office next door and offered to take it for me.
“Don’t worry, I’ll pass it straight onto her!” he said cheerily, for which I thanked him.
It was only as I was walking back home that the thought struck me; what if he steamed opened the envelope, re-printed the body of the Will so that he’s the sole beneficiary, then sent a hitman to my house?
It’s a stark possibility, you have to admit.
I felt like turning back to warn him that the value of my estate wouldn’t cover a hitman’s fee, not at current market rates anyway, but by then I was almost home, and it was cold.
There are the usual paranoia-y thoughts too, of course.
Thoughts like, has lockdown made me look more haggard than usual? Will I ever have a genuinely creative idea again? Do my friends and family hate me for being so introvertedly lax at responding to their messages, or indeed, hardly ever contacting them myself? Do people secretly wonder how I manage to keep on paying my mortgage, when I’m such a terrible writer?
Like I said, sometimes it’s nice to have a few other flawed humans around.