Seven weeks, and sometimes I wonder whether my beautiful and wildly talented girlfriend is actually a rumour. She lives on the other side of the border. Her exact address is in Wellington but it may as well be Hamilton, or Gore, or Tūrangi, or Cheviot - anywhere outside Auckland is another planet, another dimension. But that's the view from Auckland. The view on the other side of the border is that Auckland is another planet, another dimension – we're not so much Auckland as the Auckland Islands, that godforsaken group of rocks in Sub-Antarctic waters, populated by a cult of the damned living in shelters made of driftwood and kelp.
Seven weeks going on eight, and at first we were like, oh bother that's a shame but it'll pass and we'll see each other soon kind of thing. The latest super-spreader variant of a deadly pandemic felt like no big deal. It started feeling like a big deal somewhere around the time the rest of New Zealand was set free and Auckland was set aside, cordoned off, put in quarantine. This week's lockdown status announcement included plenty of blather about Government-decreed picnics but nothing about the prospect of travel beyond the border. Auckland must remain an archipelago of the infected, confined to their shelters made of driftwood and kelp.
Eight weeks on Tuesday, and other couples separated by the border will have their own stories, their own perspectives on love and absence in the time of something resembling cholera. Good luck to all the divided couples, and families, too. Some of these separations are heartbreaking. I hear from one guy, who writes, "My partner has been living in a single-bedroom hospital room with her mother since the first week of lockdown. Her mum was diagnosed with aggressive multiple cancers that have amazingly gone undetected till now. Lockdown has been incredibly hard for them both. My only hope is my partner gets to grieve in a less restricted environment." Nothing like actual physical suffering to make you feel stoic about your own lot in life and to just get on with it, silently gathering food and fuel to bring back to your shelter made of driftwood and kelp.
Eight weeks is set for at least nine, and I couldn't be with her on her birthday. I sent flowers, and a skirt by John Galliano. Good old John Galliano. He was
there when I needed him. She had texted, "The way a man treats his girlfriend on her birthday tells you how he really feels about her." I don't know if this was a quote or her own sentiment, and I don't know if it was wise or just a sign of greed, but I took it seriously and also bought her a perfume, yet to arrive in the country. "I took what you texted as a kind of threat," I told her. She said, "I meant it as a show of confidence." She loved the flowers and the Galliano. At least I can provide that, marooned in my shelter made of driftwood and kelp.
Nine weeks or probably longer, and sometimes she cries when we talk on the phone. "I really miss you." Yes, same. Absence is over-rated. Presence makes the heart grow fonder. We congratulated ourselves for a little while that we last saw each other just as lockdown was being announced and we could cling on to that fresh memory – the West Plaza hotel, dinner at Jasmine restaurant, her black hair and Ngāti Porou skin in the Wellington night – in the first few weeks of level 4. But that feels a long time ago and like all old news it belongs to the useless past. The present is solitary, and I phone every day from my shelter made of driftwood and kelp.
Three months, maybe until Christmas, maybe sometime next year, and it's not like you can do anything about it, doing a William Willis is a bad option – anyway, that publicly shamed asshole didn't cross the border in some mad romantic urge to see his girlfriend, they went to Wānaka together, which makes it worse. Delta is an impasse. Thou shalt not, you know, passe. It is what it is. There are unwell parents separated from their children by a border who will die. There are couples separated by a border who will break up, and other couples who will see it out with good humour and good faith - the day will surely come when I leave this sub-tropical isthmus of kelp and driftwood shelters, and head south for love.