Steve Braunias vaguely recalls lockdown.
It's like it never happened. School, traffic, waiting in silence with other people for the elevator – pretty much everything is back to something at least resembling the old normal, except for traces, like the silhouette in fine white dust that wood pigeons leave behind when they fly into windows. The virus had the same kind of impact. It smashed into something. It hit the world.
It's like it was a long, long time ago, an ancient event. It was a set of customs observed by a superstitious race. They washed their hands the instant they got home. They put bears in windows. They hissed at people who went swimming. They hoarded bottled water in case the government turned the taps off. They chanted: "Be kind!" They avoided each other like the plague: the plague was among them, and no one knew who had it.
It's like it was all just a bad dream. Every day at 1pm a bell chimed and a man and a woman stood on a low stage and brought out the numbers of the dead. There was talk of a second wave, a tsunami that lay in wait – every day was like seeing the tide suck out a little further but the danger was that it would turn and crash forward with epic and lethal force. The streets were empty. The playgrounds were closed. The wave could strike at any moment.
It's like it was all just a good dream. God, I loved lockdown, its peace and quiet, its magical thinking – it took the days apart, a Monday felt the same as a Thursday, there was really no such thing as a weekend unless you looked at the whole thing like a lost weekend. It was the gift of quality time with your kids that kept on giving. I loved every second of hanging out with my daughter; at 13, she's trying on personalities to see which suits her best and will take her through her teenage years. All children are a fabulous work in progress. Lockdown gave parents some of the best weeks of their lives.
It's like it was something no one can remember clearly. It had no shape, no form. It was one of the most profound moments in history and we all had a stake in it and the stakes were very, very high, a matter of life and death but all most of us did about it was sit at home, watch TV, bake, sleep. There was an anxiety and a dread that covered everything like a dark cloud full of static electricity but it lost its drama, the threat passed and, actually, the weather during lockdown was lovely. It was a golden autumn. This is the way the world looked to be ending: not with a bang but the falling of leaves.
It's like it stopped too soon. Life went on pause, gave everyone a chance to rest up, tidy the house, get in some gardening, read. I finished War & Peace, started Madame Bovary. I finished writing my next book, kept meaning to start another one but didn't get around to it. I wasted one of the greatest opportunities that I'll ever experience: a crisis. But I slept soundly, and didn't have a care in the world apart from the prospect of financial ruin.
It's like it never happened. It happened. It killed people. I went on walks during lockdown with my daughter around our neighbourhood – me on foot, her on her bike – and we'd go past the St Margaret's aged-care home which suffered a Covid-19 cluster and three people died. It's a handsome two-storey villa. The doors and windows were shut tight. A security guard sat on a chair in the driveway. She wore a high-vis jacket.
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It's like it's still happening. We can't leave the country. We're stuck here. But we can do the best things in New Zealand life - go to the mall, take long drives, fly within our long white cloud. It's over, really. It's gone, and I kind of miss it.
Next week: Ashleigh Young