A woman comes home full of a hundred thoughts. The countertop clean as when she left it, the dumping ground for post, keys, broken things and lists. She puts down her bag, her phone and her mask – her holy trinity. She unloads the shopping experience; the disinfectant smell lingering in her nose like thoughts of third class P.E at the pool, the sight of the shop security letting people in and out with gestures and clickers.
She recalls the man who stood too close, who called her “an erratic woman” when she asked him to step back. Did he mean neurotic? Her meal planned trolley was far from erratic, separated into food groups, neatly arranged. It was easy to feel in control of such caged things. She hung back from this man and felt an aubergine – remembered how her youngest child took a bite out of one once, back when you could bring the kids with you in store. Before one per trolley policy.
She is notified of deaths and cases and lockdowns rolling like hills. She forgot to get the birthday cake for doing the candles over Zoom. She voice notes her husband – a thumbs up reply.
She unpacks her reusable bags full of good food and healthy snacks and nothing she chose for herself. There is a bottle of wine she bought for the weekend. It’s Tuesday, but it’s felt like the longest week. She pours and drinks and washes the glass straight away. Tidies her countertop again, googles ‘erratic’ again, reads the headlines again, waits for the kids again, for her husband to come in with the latest reports from RTE Radio 1. She shakes her head at the figures and developments, as if she hasn’t refreshed her app a hundred times today.
She chops the courgette so small they won’t even notice it. She steadies her hand and tries not to pull away from human contact when her husband brushes against it. The kids line up at the sink like little cadets and scrub their hands for at least twenty seconds each, singing songs that have lost all meaning.