Apartment block, glass and steel, with balconies
Yes, but back to what kind of normal?

100 Days of Solitude

In my imaginary novelisation of the current crisis, the lights come up on a journalist watching one of the third-week-of-the-lockdown ministerial briefings on a big smart TV in an apartment out of a lifestyle ad.

The briefing is the one in which the health secretary answers a question about his recent week off with “mild symptoms”.

He’s feeling great, he says, but yes, he’s still social-distancing. He’s had it, but that doesn’t mean he can’t catch it again and he doesn’t know whether he’s still infectious.

“Expletive deleted,” says the journalist, leaning forward on the sofa they bought in the pre-crisis sale. [She’s actually quite foul-mouthed, but I’m a prude so we’re going to have to fix the dialogue in the edit.] “I knew it!”

“Huh?” says her partner, who’s sitting on the sofa next to her in his pyjamas, growing a beard and playing a first-person shooter on a laptop.

“Secondary infections!” says our protagonist. She grabs the laptop — yes, of course he protests; he hasn’t saved, etc. — and starts frantically tapping at the keys.

Because this is a tense modern urban documentary-style drama, he peels himself up off the sofa and goes over to the kitchen-side of the room to make himself a peanut-butter-and-banana sandwich.

“Oh no!” says the journalist, her face eerily lit from below by more light than could possibly be shining from the laptop screen in front of her. “Oh no!”

Out on the balcony, the string quartet launches into a dark’n’doomy variation on the theme tune (I know I said ‘novelisation’, but this is a global emergency so we’re back in the movie).

“Whash-sa-fuff?” says her partner, coming forward from the kitchen area with his mouth already full.

Because this is a tense modern urban documentary-style drama — and uncompromisingly authentic with it — everything he says from now on has to be through a mouthful of peanut-butter-and-banana sandwich.

“Here! Look!” She stands up, comes round the sofa and thrusts the laptop into his hands.

“Ghar-fuh!” He manages to sit back down on the sofa, get the laptop onto his knees, and take another bite of the peanut-butter-and-banana sandwich.

“Phlurf?” he says after a moment. “Es jussa phlog wriff…”

“A blog written by a maverick scientist with interesting spectacles and a little beard whom nobody believes. I know that! But look at this! And this!”

She’s pointing to a news story from South Korea about recovered patients getting ill again. And another one from Japan. “And it mutates!”

He still doesn’t get it and she doesn’t want any more crumbs sprayed onto their new sofa, so she launches into the exposition that gets the plot started.

If we can still get the virus after we’ve had the virus –

— then this is even more serious than we’ve realised.

It’s not the easing of the lockdown that’s the issue –

— so much as the likelihood of a second wave of the infection after the government has used up all its credibility on fighting the first wave.

“Not sure that any of it’s true, but if it is, what do we do?” she concludes.

“Say indoorsh?” he says.

“Oh, babe.” She watches as he crams the last of the sandwich into his mouth, smearing peanut butter and squished banana. “Wash your hands.”

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