Things are changing far too quickly for me.
In the post below, writing of the changes I’d observed throughout Dundee since Covid-19 took over the world and my general thoughts and feelings surrounding this, I also wrote of my friend Josh, my young student friend whom I know through my work who had moved in with me.
Our first day and night as roomies was a good one; I had so much fun. A loner since childhood, I’ve always been content and comfortable with my own company and have always preferred to live alone. And apart from my two husbands Clinton & Tyrone, followed by Bryon (who almost 32 years later I still find it difficult to talk about) and Colin, the guy I originally moved to Scotland for, I have always lived alone.
That first day and night, Josh and I shared our fears, bolstered each other up, quickly agreed on what he’d pay while living with me, made a list of words we would both avoid using in order to keep our spirits up, and watched senseless movies while eating junk food until we both started to doze off mid-sentence.
“Are you sure about this?” Josh asked for what had to be the 22nd time as together we made up the sofa bed where he would sleep. “I truly appreciate this, but I don’t want to intrude, and I don’t want to interfere with your time with John.”
“For fucks sake, stop asking me that,” I groaned. “We’re good, babes. I wouldn’t have offered if I didn’t mean it. These are interesting times and there are no rules – all rule books have gone out the window. You’re okay, I’m okay, we’re safe here. Love you…here’s the remotes – see you in the morning.” And I covered him with the duvet, the same way I cover my Scottish bestie JoJo when she stays with me.
“Can you turn the telly and the light out please?” he asked. “Think I’m just gonna go to sleep.” So I did that, and then tiptoed away to my own bed.
I kept getting up throughout the night. My sleep was thin, my dreams disturbed and all the Pepsi we’d drunk earlier meant I kept needing to pee. And each time I got up to go to the loo, I would peek in on Josh, like any mother checking on her child, thinking how funny and strange and yet wonderful it was that I, who had made the decision at the tender age of nine to never have children, had ended up in the latter years of my life as a mother figure to so many. In truth, every time someone calls me “Mumma” or “Mum” or “Ma”, I am deeply honoured. I hope the people who call me by this name know how honoured and humbled I am that they have awarded me with this sobriquet.
The next morning I awakened at 7am. I peered into the living room at Josh, who was blissfully asleep, looking all of 12 years old. I took my laptop, tablet and mobile into the kitchen, where I answered FB messages, texts, worked on my novel and chain-smoked and drank coffee. When I went into the living room at 9am to feed the fish, Josh was awake.
“Hey, you’re awake!” I said. “Morning! You okay….you sleep okay?”
“Morning,” he said, smiling. “Yeah, I’m okay…musta been more tired than I realised.”
“That’s understandable,” I told him. “You’ve had a helluva week.” Josh is president of the SRC (Student Representative Council) where I work, and he’d been working non-stop to make sure the SRC members, the students on campus and pretty much everybody (the author of this piece included!) was okay and still getting the support they needed in the run up to the sad but inevitable closure.
“Hope I wasn’t loud,” he said. “I talk in my sleep, and my flatmates have told me I swear at people in my sleep.”
“You’re good, baby,” I told him. “I’ve talked in my sleep for years. I also cry, laugh, and cuss people out. I’m prone to nightmares, which got worse after my Mom passed…I’m always punching and hitting John in my sleep; thank God he understands and knows what to do on those nights when the nightmares are really bad. Plus, I fart in my sleep, so don’t worry: you’re good.”
It was sunny that day….Friday 20th March, the first day of spring. We had our showers. We chatted about how torn he felt between remaining in Dundee and going home to be with his family, something I well understand, as I have been dealing with this dilemma for 18 years. After coffee, we gave each other some alone time: there were things he needed to do, and I decided to go outside and work in my garden. After that we walked into City Centre, revelling in the sunshine, the sight of people on the streets and the fact that Burger King – which we’d both been craving – was still open.
Josh, needing to return to his student flat and pack things up, had packed the bag he’d brought to my house and taken it with him for his trip into town. “Just in case I need to bring more stuff to yours, or I decide it’s best for me to go home and be with my folks,” he explained.
“Got it,” I said. “Whatever you do, I’ll support you – you know where I am.” We hugged each other tightly; I kissed him his cheek. He headed off down the Perth Road and I went into the Overgate to have a wee wander through Primark.
Josh is gone now; I no longer have a roommate. After much soul searching – which I watched him do, listening to him while he did it – he made the decision to go back to England to be with his family. And I admire him so much for making that decision.
I’m doing a lot of soul-searching now, just as my friend Josh did. I have lived in Scotland for 18 years. I’m heavily emotionally invested in this country – I have grown old here. My partner John is here.
I wish I knew what to do. At any rate, the decision may soon be taken out of my hands: as more events get cancelled, as more and more businesses close their doors, I wouldn’t be surprised at all to see a ban on all flights imposed in the near future.
For the moment, I’m going to shove that thought aside. I’ve been given the gift of another day: I woke up in a cosy, comfortable space that is familiar and well loved. The sun is shining, John is in his usual spot on the sofa with a cuppie and his book of the moment, Planet Rock is playing Steely Dan, and I have pots of sweet peas, lilies and violas to plant in my garden.
The worst thing that ever happened to me was the death of my mom. Somehow, I got through that. I’m not over it, and probably never will be, but I got through it. So I’ll get through this, too.
Y’all stay safe.