The cafe where I pick up my coffee has adapted brilliantly to the pandemic. Everything is outdoors. The Barista is genuine when he asks how we are. The sanitiser is hard core, tables are well spaced and the security guard doubles up as a server.
There is one very noticeable change though.
People sit, on their own, sipping coffee and reading books.
And I think it’s because people are tired of reading at their homes, alone. People are tired, full stop. There is a second wave of loneliness spreading around South Africa and it is filled with too many quiet moments and too much bad news.
We are depleted.
I walk to and from the coffee shop every morning, one way of beating loneliness, saying hi to strangers along the way. This morning as I walked I listened to a Modern Love Podcast.
Alone In A Pandemic.
It was so sad, but also so beautiful, people from different countries talking about their survival experiences. Not surviving being ill, although that too, but surviving change, lockdowns and loneliness.
As I listened, I learned the word Knuffelcontact from a woman in Holland.
Knuffelcontact is a Flemish word, meaning Cuddling Friend. In Amsterdam, people are legally allowed one Knuffelcontact. This woman chose her boss, in hindsight a terrible pandemic error and NEVER CHOOSE YOUR BOSS, but actually, they’ve been good for each other.
Even though I can never cuddle for long and I get so hot and have to move and my arms go to sleep and I need a bit of space and hang on I’m uncomfortable, oy it’s like 3000 degrees, is there a pillow, no let’s get rid of the pillow, hold on, let me just shift a little, okay I am not a cuddler at all but god I miss it.
We all need human contact in a spontaneous way and that is what is missing and it is damn hard always thinking about what we have to do and how we have to do it and planning and thinking and overthinking and it’s draining and exhausting and I think that is why people are reading books in outdoor coffee shops.
It’s solo but as safe as can be.
‘That looks like a good book, what are you reading?’
WAR AND PEACE, WHAT THE FUCK.
I would also be reading a book there but I like reading lying down and they don’t have daybeds on their outside deck but maybe they will soon.
I’m going to reserve one.
Hugging is pleasure. Cuddling is delightful. It’s love. It’s friendship. It should be spontaneous.
And I can’t wait to do it again.