It’s over. Just like that. Anthony was in no way prepared for this. Something was certainly different when she first appeared that night, but it gave him no indication of the revelation that was to come.
He stared in silence for a moment and his mood sunk. He felt undeniably alone. He felt tears well up but he was too despondent to cry. He wasn’t sure how to react so he just went to bed. It was probably late enough.
“I sleep better when I’m depressed,” he’d often told himself. It’s not scientifically proven, but it made sense to him. When he was depressed a numbness replaced the agitation that otherwise kept him awake. The realisation that it was over drove him to seek solace in the covers and escape the cold winter evening.
At about 2pm the next day it hit him again. His one day a week in the office had so far distracted him from the heart-breaking news, but now it returned to haunt him. Normally the promise of an evening in would carry him through the final monotonous and arduous hours at work better than an afternoon caffeine hit, but not today.
It was at this hour that he would customarily gift himself a mental power nap, a brief daydream, as he pictured the scrumptious evening meal, the choice of dessert and the pure pleasure of “slipping into my trackies and ugg boots for a few blissful hours in your company.” Rain pouring on his roof enhanced the comfort that was always better shared.
“You don’t share my comfort, you are my comfort,” he’d always said.
Colleagues had labelled him mildly and harmlessly eccentric as he broke into random grins and light chuckles provoked by the memories of the previous night’s adventures. He hadn’t smiled today. The pleasant memories stored themselves in the recesses of his mind but would remain suppressed for quite some time.
He trudged to the break room and shoved some instant into a mug with too much sugar and some ‘girlie milk’ – no full cream left.
Today, pouring rain reminded him that he’d forgotten his umbrella.
Working from home would be even harder now. At first the idea had excited him. No more commute. Snacks and meals at arm’s length. No need to shave, no need to dress up. He’d reached a top score of 3390 in Solitaire; surely that was something to celebrate. But now the emptiness was omnipresent, taunting him in his open-plan living area with impromptu workspace. The single lounge chair looked lonelier than ever.
“I’m supposed to leave it all behind and move on,” he chided himself. “I have to accept that it’s over. It’s life. Nothing lasts forever, as myriad soppy love songs remind us. I should start dating again,”
But how does one date during a pandemic?
Social distancing is not conducive to romance. Flirtatious conversations in dimly lit restaurant corners are just a memory, and dancing is discouraged or banned – although maybe the latter is a bonus for Anthony.
What of the post-date?
Various scenarios run through Anthony’s mind.
He enters his unit with the lovely young woman. He offers her a seat and a drink. She relaxes in the lounge chair while he sits on the kitchen chair and the table renders them more socially distanced than in a restaurant or on public transport.
“Maybe I should paste on the lounge chair a green circle with “Sit Here” and a tick on it,” he suggests to himself.
The single lounge chair could, on the other hand, be a pretext for intimacy.
“We’ll just have to share,” he flirts.
“Or there is space for both of us on the bed.” In his wild imagination this sounds cheeky and charming. In real life it’s probably sleazy.
a wild imagination,
a dreadful situation and
a lethal combination.
“Loneliness is as unhealthy as smoking 15 cigarettes a day,” claims the psychologist on the radio.
Anthony thought sitting was the new smoking and he reminds himself to stop sitting alone in cafes lest he be fined or kicked out. On that reasoning, his daily exercise routine is therefore redundant. Maybe there’s no point dragging himself out of bed on winter mornings to slosh through the mud and rain. It always boosts his mood and offers a great sense of accomplishment, but if he’s virtually smoking 15 ciggies a day, what’s the point?
The clock grinds towards 5pm and he prepares to walk home. Then he stops.
Why go home? What have I got to go home to? You’re not there, and his mind races back to the previous evening…
He’d sat in numbed silence. It had finally come to an end. You’re gone.
What do I do now?
He started at the screen
Play Season 1 Episode 1.