I love my city. I was born in this city. One day I’ll die here. I learned to love it by leaving it and now I grieve and sulk and rage with it. My vibrant, posturing, mercurial city. Flawed and cracked and verdant and roaring, now silent and sullen. Stupefied by yet another lockdown when we know we’ve already done enough. Done too much. The novelty wore off long ago. Bread makers and baking tins gather dust at the back of cupboards not cleaned out since the frenetic activity of Lockdown One.
Yesterday I sidled past the long irritable queues outside the mismanaged vaccine hubs. Walk-ins wait impatiently in line behind people who spent hours on hold to get their appointment.
‘Mine was for 9:30, it’s now 10:45. I have to get back to work,’ I hear a man say, desperately looking at his watch for the third time in two minutes.
I talk to a woman who is a casual worker in a café that’s been closed more than it’s been open in the last year. She says feels guilty that she’s holding up the line. ‘I don’t have an appointment. I tried but I couldn’t get through. So, I figured I’d just turn up and wait. It’s lockdown, what else is there to do?’ Another woman hears us and nods. ‘Should have worn a warmer coat though,’ she says.
I left the hub and went on to the only other place I can go. I scanned the QR code at the supermarket entrance and then realized my lockdown brain had left the shopping bags in the car. A three-meter walk to the car and back is exhausting and enraging. A man snarled at me as I walked back past the QR scanner. ‘You have to scan in, you idiot.’ His scowl sits uncomfortably on a face habituated to a more jovial expression. As I mentally shuffle my profanities, the security guard stepped in. ‘She was here a minute ago mate, and she scanned in then.’ He waved me through, ‘Go on love, you’re fine,’ he said kindly. Kindness can make you cry in public in Melbourne now.
I got home with my bags of comfortless comfort food, exhausted by leaving my house when all I want to do is leave my house. This is Lockdown Four. Zoom parties and banana bread are just too stupid to bear. We endure. It’s only a week. Two weeks. Maybe three. They couldn’t make us do more.
I want someone to blame. I have been unjustly hurt, it’s not my fault, I don’t deserve this. It must be someone’s fault. Someone must suffer justice for injustice unjustly done. But who?
Who can I hate for doing this to me, my city, my family, my work? Is it Scott Morrison? Do I have the energy to hate him even more? Was it Dan or non-Dan? Is it our weather, our people, our roads, our urban planning? Who is to blame? Someone must be and even if they’re not, I’ll feel better if I believe they are. Could we just nominate a target and burn them in effigy in the middle of Fed Square? We should. Let’s live stream some serotonin back to Melbourne’s neural pathways.
I scan the news sites again. Maybe someone has finally identified the culprit. One of my compatriots is going to win a Walkley as they pull back the curtain and show us the mastermind pressing the levers and pushing all our buttons. But no. It’s the same mutinous line-up of usual suspects. Unions. Greenies. Private greed and public incompetence. Climate change deniers and freedom-hating fascists. Malevolent buffoons and unwilling heroes front the cameras and vanish, leaving no answers, only more questions.
Contact tracers and vaccine rollers and quarantine builders and QR coders all failed us Except that they didn’t. We should feel lucky we are not India, Canada, America. I try to feel lucky. I know how lucky we are. But there doesn’t seem much point in getting out of bed today.
The device on my wrist beeps at me. Time to stand. Walk around for two minutes. I am so sick of the house I love so much and the suburb that has been by village and my refuge for all my adult life. So sick of looking at familiar sights I could vomit. Just before this lockdown started someone asked me to do a gig in Queensland. I wasn’t sure I could. Leaving home feels so unsafe now.
A friend from interstate called me yesterday. I lay on the couch and watched her photo shining on the phone’s screen. She looks happy. I don’t know if she is. Last time she called me it was Lockdown Three. She was in a restaurant having lunch. I only have to wait a few more rings before it stops.
I sit here with my dust and my dogs and my untidy cupboards, and listlessly re-watch The Good Wife and re-read The Trauma Cleaner because familiar is easier than new. I am weighed down by the contradictions and confines of keeping everyone safe and free. I am isolated and not alone.
Melbourne, my city, my home, my haven. I love you. Endure.