Dream quarantine

The swifts and swallows are back. Those little harbingers of summer. 

The sound of them screeching and sweeping and tumbling down the street reminds me of suffocatingly hot August mornings in Madrid when you wake up in a pool of sweat having only managed to drift off an hour or so ago. 

Everything in Madrid closes in August, with shopkeepers and bar owners shipping out to the coasts or to their villages — everyone has a “pueblo” in Spain — for their holidays. 

They’re closed now, too. I wonder if the swallows think they’ve arrived late. 

I had a strange dream last night. 

I dreamt that I woke up in my bed, got up, put on some jogging bottoms and an old t-shirt, headed to the living room, turned on the computer and started work. 

Then I woke up in my bed, got up, put on some jogging bottoms and an old t-shirt, headed to the living room, turned on the computer and started work, but for real this time. 

It dawned on me that the quarantine had pierced through to my subconscious, and I’m pretty bloody hacked off by that. If it carries on I’m going to have to start filing for overtime.

The bosses changed my shift pattern the other week from 9 to 5 to 12 to 8. 

ezgif.com-video-to-gif (1)Now the eruption of applause every evening serves as a reminder that my workday is over, and that I can finally pull myself up from my wobbly plastic Ikea chair and make the two steps to my living room balcony to join in. 

It’s a strange phenomenon, clapping from the balcony. The pessimistic devil on the shoulder asks what the point is. Clapping is great, but after all this is over, are we just going to go back to paying health workers far below what they deserve?

I dedicate at least a minute of the applause to my mum, who works in the NHS. And pessimism aside, I always find I have a lump in my throat at some point.

Since the clocks sprang forward, I am able to see the residents of my street in all their glory. 

There’s the woman who looks like an art teacher, the man with the two black and white barrels masquerading as French bulldogs, and the troop of howler monkeys who live a couple of doors down. 

I’m still waiting to catch a glimpse of the person who lives directly above me, to verify whether or not he is, in fact, a giant with a taste for concrete clogs and jogging on the spot.

I wondered what they thought of me, stood out there at 8pm wearing my pyjamas still and my hair twisted and dry like a swallow’s nest. 

WhatsApp Image 2020-03-28 at 14.34.06

The novelty of wearing pyjamas to work wears off around halfway through the shift when you realize that all your adult actions like firing off important emails signed with “kind regards” and your phone calls to the boss are belittled by the fact you look like a four-year-old boy on Christmas Day.

I’m no stranger to funky work clothes.

One particularly overweight summer at uni, I pulled shifts at a sandwich deli that required me to wear a tiny green apron that dug into the overhang of my belly and a tight black shirt that highlighted my curvaceous upper body. 

I spent most of my shifts self-consciously readjusting my garb like some mad game of head shoulders, knees and toes. 

On Monday, I changed things up on the balcony and wore a crisply ironed white shirt and blue trousers, and I’m pretty sure my neighbours thought I was some well-to-do banker who’d broken quarantine rules to come and check on his motivationally-challenged twin brother. 

Wrong. I just had a zoom meeting that day.


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