Chronicling the Days – Rachel McCrum

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 is the final piece in the series, written by Rachel McCrum on Monday, May 25.

Photo: Mont Royal belvedere – April 2020.

I’m woken at 530 a.m. by our petit pirate of a cat, who takes it upon herself to come and bat a grey paw in my face. She doesn’t want fed or out, particularly. Just a sign of life. She knows better than to touch J, my partner, sleeping peacefully beside me. His ability to flick a hip – and send her flying off the bed – without waking up should be patented.

I’d worry if she didn’t come.

I’m usually awake now for a while. I like this pale time. I reach for my phone, check on the hours-ahead chat from family in Northern Ireland and England; from friends in Edinburgh, in London. I skim the headlines of the Guardian. Today’s big debate concerns Dominic Cummings’ little jaunt to Durham during the UK lockdown, and whether Boris Johnson will actually have the guts to fire him (bet you a Montreal May heatwave that he won’t). Then I get to the Montreal Gazette, then CBC. I start with the ‘home’ news first. Hard habit to shake.

I know that today I’m due to write the last section for ‘Chronicling the Days’, which makes this rather meta, as I’m lying in bed thinking about what I will write. Last night, I sat and counted up the figures. Better, I read back. In the seven weeks since Monday, April 6, 2020, we have published ninety-nine stories from lockdown time in Quebec. There have been stories of people facing home-schooling and the challenges of suddenly having children at home all day; there have been worries over stockpiling, access to supplies, and the wearing of masks. There have been health scares. There have been love stories and there has been grief. There has been isolation and loneliness, and there have been families coming together. There have been intimate glimpses into domestic lives. There have been closed cafes and quiet streets. There have been racist incidents. There has been anxiety and fear and generosity and courage. There have been quite a few stories of writers reflecting that staying at home and not seeing many people isn’t that unusual for them. There has been a story from an ICU nurse. There have been stories of cats.

There has been community. The number of views and comments on the posts growing as the weeks went on: people thanking each other for sharing their experiences, remarking when it resonated, wishing each other luck.

There has been a sense of time passing. To read back to the start of the series, when there was snow on the ground, and all this seemed unbelievable. It helps with a sense of future.

The next few days will be hot. Today is the day when Montreal will ‘re-open’, in some limited ways. Shops but not schools. Workplaces but not theatres or clubs or bars. Back at the start of this, it seemed like there would be a definite ‘after’. When everything would return to normal and we could have a jolly good session hugging and crying into each others faces. Now, as the sense of a ‘new normal’ extends indefinitely and uncertainly, it seems more accurate to talk about a sense of ‘before’ and ‘what now?’

No neat endings. The pale time brightens. These narratives and days still stretching out before us. Thank you all, very much, for sharing them here.

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