Welcome to QWF series ‘Chronicling the Days’, specifically for this strange uneasy time of coronavirus and pandemic, of social distancing and self isolation, of lockdown and quarantine.
In April 2020, we invited writers in Quebec to submit a story – of a single day at this time, because while we’re all living through this time, we know that we’re not all living through it in the same way. To stay connected – to know how we’re getting on. Every story valid.
Submissions have now closed for the series but we’ll be continuing to publish the pieces throughout May. Keep an eye for them here, or join us on the QWF FB Community page, and let the authors know if their words resonated.
This piece is by Anabelle Zaluski, writing in April 2020.
I pull my boots on, flatten my coat against my body, and set my mask delicately across my face. Grocery shopping is an ordeal now, I’ve learned, foreseen with the care and planning of a war. Do I have my list? The cart to pull behind me? Will I remember to keep distance, and to only pick up the apples that I plan on buying, instead of examining every one?
The kids downstairs have coloured uplifting messages and pasted them on the apartment door. They make me smile, even though they’re not for me. I turn and drag my cart down our little concrete stairs.
I like my neighbourhood. One of my favourite houses has a wall of browned vines. I hope to no god in particular that they grow when spring comes. Not when it begins but when it arrives wholeheartedly, with the certainty that April lacks. But the crocuses grow at the feet of the trees, right where the roots melt into the soil.
The sun is shining and the fresh air is, simply put, nice. I walk on the brightest side of the street. I wish I could smile through the mask on my face but instead I awkwardly lock eyes with people. I probably seem hostile. I could easily be grimacing, or sticking out my tongue. Is she okay? Maybe she stubbed her toe, or is remembering something embarrassing. At a stoplight I have to remember to breathe because, somehow, being still has become more stressful than moving.
I finally get to Metro and it’s unusually dark inside. There’s no line along the sidewalk. I feel cheated that nobody told me that it’s closed on Sundays, as is the Fruiterie beside it, and the SAQ where I declared to my roommate I’d buy us more wine.
To make myself feel better I decide to browse Jean Coutu for a few minutes and spend some money. That’s what I came out to do. I pick up a bottle of honey because we’re out of it, some of those curly hair elastics, and a bag of Doritos. I also buy red lipstick, because it’s on sale, and I’ve been thinking about it lately. Why does she need this during a global pandemic?
Walking home on Sherbrooke, I start to see women who look like my mother, whether or not they actually do or I’m making it so. They walk past me with big coats and sunglasses on, the eyes of strangers underneath. They all have the same hair. Shiny, dyed from grey. My mom used to be a brunette, like me, but is slowly bringing it lighter. Every time I go home it looks different.
I drag my embarrassingly empty cart behind me and turn the corner onto my street, cutting through the gas station. On our front door, the coloured-in rainbows are still there. A page that says “THANK YOU DELIVERY WORKERS” has a corner that is peeling off. I press it down. It comes back up.