My darling Omid,
You’ll never hear the words “Covid-19”, but it’s all the world talks about these days. I wonder what you would make of it all.
Ava and I have just finished 14 days of self-isolation, as she had a cough, and are now in lockdown along with one third of the world’s population. You wouldn’t have imagined such a time was possible, and it has brought to mind the many times you tore your hair out with frustration when I refused to give in to coughs and colds and continued with my normal routines. You’d implore me to stay home rather than go to work/the theatre/the pub, but my FOMO always won out, despite knowing you were right. Now #stayathome is trending.
You were so diligent about resting and staying home when sick – you would lie in bed for days, while I played Florence Nightingale. I’d make you mugs of Lempsip and stroke your forehead while you rested. Do you remember posting me a sachet of Lempsip while I was at university? I was in bed with flu before we were dating, and bemoaning my lack of drugs on the phone. A few days later a single sachet arrived with a heart drawn on it, and a note that read “for next time”. I think it was one of the most romantic things you ever did. I kept it on my pinboard for the next 3 years.
When struck down with ‘man flu’ you liked to drink warm fruit juice and made a wicked tomatoey chicken soup – something between coq-au-vin and a pasta sauce with fresh, tinned and pureed tomatoes and whatever veg we had left over in the fridge. Comforting, delicious, healing. I’d give anything for a bowl of it tonight
Right now, you’d be in full support of self-isolation and social distancing, and infuriated by anyone not adhering to the advice. I can see us watching the daily updates from number 10, live on BBC news. You’d be lying on the sofa, each finger pressed against its counterpart, your face nestled between thumb and forefingers in concentration. You’d call your parents daily to reassure them we were ok and make sure they were isolating. I want to you to know that I’m doing that for you now, that I’ll do whatever I can to keep them safe.
We’d be facetiming your friends and cousins in America, swapping stories of madness – you leaning far back in your swivel chair, house trainers (never slippers) on the desk, me sat on your lap with an arm around your neck. I can hear you talking to your writing partner in the states, setting the world to rights and creasing with laughter, banging your chest with a fist when it became hard to breathe. That laughter echoes in my ear and it’s one of my most precious memories. This is how I remember you: happy, silly, loyal.
Social distancing wouldn’t be new for you. You’d often lock yourself away for weeks at a time in an intensive writing binge to start or revise a script. Do you remember when I returned home from university one holiday to a scene from A Beautiful Mind? You’d not left the flat for days, had grown your beard long and covered the walls in images of sand dunes. In an effort to immerse yourself in the world of the script you were wearing desert gear when I arrived. We laughed about it for years to come, but the isolation often took its toll on your mental health as you began to feel lonely. I’d be worrying now about how it was affecting you.
I imagine you sitting at your desk in our living room day after day, trying to make the best of the situation by being productive. If we were both stuck at home in our tiny flat you’d find it hard to concentrate with me pottering about, but you’d also enjoy calling on me to bounce ideas and read pages and revisions.
You’d almost certainly be scribbling notes for a new ‘outbreak’ script idea, involving a family isolated at home, with an absent parent. It’s hard to believe this once fantasy-reserved narrative is now my life.
You’d most definitely want to take self-isolation as an opportunity to deep clean and purge the flat. It was always a go-to activity in times of stress (usually between Christmas and New Year when you were forced to stop working!! Always a bone of contention for me..). We’d be rummaging and dusting under the bed, bleaching the mould off the bathroom walls and wiping the grime off the top of the kitchen cabinets. I’d fill a carrier bag with jars of dried herbs that expired in 2015 and exotic ingredients used sparingly for one elaborate dish and then left idle in a dark corner.
On Sundays we’d cosy up on the sofa and have our own little film festival. A selection of old favourites – Spielberg, Capra, Hitchcock, Pixar – and the latest releases we hadn’t yet had time to watch.
You’d be worried about work, and opportunities put on hold. Worried about my work and how we’d manage if it was affected by the new restrictions. But we’d remind each other daily how lucky we were to have each other, despite being “poor as church mice”. And we’d mean it. When it came to love, we were millionaires.
What makes me really sad in all this, is that I cannot picture Ava in it. I can’t imagine an alternative reality in which this is happening to the three of us. Our little family was so new, that I have no frame of reference for it. I want to picture you playing with her in the living room, showing her your favourite films and teaching her to draw. Chasing her across the Mount as we take our daily walk. I know you would have done these things. But the images are grainy and blurred in contrast to the HD projections my mind makes of the two of us in 2020, as if they were never meant to be. My imagination never was as good as yours.
There is a part of me that is glad you’re not experiencing this, not trawling through the news each day and watching the horror unfold – especially in Iran. That your brow isn’t furrowed with anxiety and your heart not reeling with the pain of others. That you’re not frustrated with the sense of helplessness. But I also wish this was another chapter in our story together. Something we survived that brought us closer together, and made us even more grateful for one another. Every day I count my blessings – my health, family, and precious extra time with Ava. If only you were still among them.