I have a tenant who lives in a cottage in my garden. She’s quite shy and I’m a little unsociable. We keep our distance from one another but we do like one another. We say things like hey, how was work, nice haircut, Fred stop barking, ooh I love your Doc Martens.
It’s always been a semi-distant relationship.
Yesterday I saw her in the garden, picking a lemon off the tree. Anxiety makes her drink more tea than usual.
Lemons can be soothing, she told me.
We discussed the Covoid Situation, like what the fuck is a Covoid Situation. We spoke distantly, about fear and anxiety. I said we were lucky to have one another, that I am here for her, so are my sons and so are the fabulous neighbours.
This morning I picked a few more lemons and left them outside her door.
But now, 24 hours later, she came to say goodbye. Distantly.
Her grandmother has died. She has to go home to Potchefstroom. It’s far.
Do you have to go to the funeral, I asked.
Yes, she said.
Should you be going, I asked, even though it is not my position to ask.
And because I also know the answer.
It’s her Grandmother.
She has to go.
We are only allowed five at the funeral, she told me. But I am one of the five. I need to be there.
I wished her luck. She’s travelling by taxi. There will be a lot of people in the taxi. There may be sick people in the taxi.
She may be sick.
And home is not isolated. It is not quarantined. It is certainly not the bottom of my garden.
We waved goodbye, semi-distantly. As we always do.
This time I didn’t comment on her Doc Martens.
Because combined with the backpack on her back and the scarf around her mouth, it looked like she was wearing combat gear.
She’s gone off to combat.
And she may not be back.