At 5 p.m., I was pacing up and down Preston Street, on the lookout for a dark car of a make and model I couldn’t remember but with an easy-to-spot Quebec licence plate.
I was almost nervous. Was it okay to meet? I mean, we’re definitely not in the same household…
“Hey! I’m here!”
“We probably shouldn’t—”
“Yeah, let’s not kiss.”
No, I’m not cheating on Feng—I was meeting my oldest friend in Ottawa because bridges between Ontario and Quebec reopened, but in pandemic times, it felt like having a secret affair. And since we’re both French and our culture has taught us it’s perfectly acceptable to spend a few hours of your day cheek kissing for no reason, we had to remind ourselves it wasn’t a trendy move in 2020.
“I need caffeine.”
“So do I. The kids are driving me nuts.”
“My one kid… is okay, actually. Glued to the tablet, that is. But everything else is driving me nuts.”
Once the feeling of impending doom (March to mid-April) eased up, grief settled in until early May. After that came a brief moment of optimism—maybe things would get better, after all, the pandemic seemed to be more or less under control in some places. Then boredom and a weird new routine set in. I’m now apparently in a new phase and it’s not the most constructive one—I feel exhausted, apathetic and completely hopeless.
I’d like to know what kind of story I’m reading here. I’d like to know when can we do what and by the way, are we all gonna die or not? I wish I could fast forward like Mark when he watches DVDs just to catch a glimpse of the future—wait, do we have a future? But it’s out of my control.
Everything these days is out of my control. Jumping into the unknown can be fun and exciting but I’m not loving the new normal.
“How do we do that? Are you sure it’s open?”
My friend stared at the Starbucks, puzzled.
“Yeah, don’t worry. So it’s very simple. See, we stand here, order through the app, pay and eventually someone will open the door and call your name.”
“I… don’t have the app.”
“Oh, thank you. It’s on me, let me get my card.”
“No, it’s not, because we have to order and pay through the app.”
“Are you serious? In Quebec, we can order as usual tap our card.”
I pointed to the giant message on the window—“MOBILE ORDERS ONLY.”
“I came here last week,” I explained. “Took me a while to figure it out too… and the app isn’t exactly user-friendly. Also, I feel like an idiot standing outside the store like a dog. Most of the time, I get my coffee from the convenience store. Not as tasty but at least I get to step inside and interact with someone for a minute.”
“Everything is just so weird right now… Do you think we can walk around Dow’s Lake? Are there any tulips this year?”
Like all events, the Canadian Tulip Festival was cancelled. But tulips were still planted and they bloomed because they don’t give a damn about COVID-19. Early May, admirers were warned against taking pictures or stopping to take a look. The “no stopping” and “no photography” signs in the tulip beds are still here but a few days later the National Capital Commission literally said “our bad!” and confirmed no fines would be given.
“Sounds good. I brought my camera just in case as well…”
“Let’s sit and enjoy our coffee first.”
“Wait, I don’t think we can—sit, I mean. Oh, shit, I can’t remember whether benches are off limits or not…”
“Sure. But out of the way because I have no idea whether the two of us can be considered a ‘gathering’…”
I hesitate for a long time before creating the pandemic tag. Part of it was probably childish superstition—it’s gonna pass, we’ll be fine. But it was also because we’re all OD-ing on COVID-19. If you’re anything like me, you’re probably both looking for news and info, sometimes refreshing the page as if you could have missed something positive, and you’re probably completely sick of hearing about the virus as well.
It’s hard to talk about anything else since it impacts all aspects of life and we’re all in the same boat.
Still, I find these days it’s difficult to put words on what we are living so if you feel like saying “yes, it’s exactly that!” after reading a post, then I will have reached my goal.
My friend and I enjoyed our little secret rendez vous. The conversation did revolve around the fact we can’t make plans and how we can move forward, but at least we were able to laugh about the situation.
And the tulips looked amazing.