2nd Place Picture This

Picture this.

7th June.

 This was going to be our year.  The year Quentin and I were going to retire and travel the world.  In fact, today was the very day we were scheduled to board our boat in the medieval city of Dubrovnik. So many nights we pictured ourselves sailing the sun-drenched Adriatic, island hopping, swimming, sipping local wines.

Instead here I am.  

I glance through the small rectangular pane of glass. Inside the dimly lit hospital room lay a man, his face ashen grey, his body connected to numerous tubes, the chest moving rhythmically up and down. Surely that’s not him, not my Quentin. What parallel world was I living in? 

A fully helmeted nurse in a hazmat suit pulls at my elbow.  Was it a male or female? I couldn’t tell under all that gear.  Even visiting for a short time had its risks I was told. Any sort of contact was completely out of the question.  A few brief seconds of viewing through the window was all that was allowed followed by removal of gloves, masks and outer protective suit and then of course the laborious handwashing and fever check. 

The drive home feels like an eternity. In real time it’s half an hour. Few vehicles are on the road except for the occasional supply truck or ambulance.  It is eerie in its quietness. The empty roads, the closed shops, the few people who dared to go out, all decked out in gloves and masks. I veer into my driveway and walk into the house in a daze, automatically switching on the television as I sink into the couch.  Red alerts across the country, the tv blares. The entire nation is now in quarantine. I am so tired. As my eyes close we are there, in a tiny cove, swimming in the crystal clear waters of the Adriatic. I lay on my back laughing, floating easily and staring at a vivid blue sky.

8th June

Knocking. Who is it?  I drag myself off the couch and carefully open the door.

Two small children plead,  “We’re hungry. Got anything?”

I glance from them to the waiting parent in the car.

“Wait here,” I say as I walk into the kitchen and grab two oranges.

“Here.” They snatch and run. “Hey, what about a thank-you?”  

9th June

A ding. The phone. The hospital clinic.  Visitors no longer allowed – concerns of virus contamination. We will let you know if his condition changes.  Current condition – critical.

I run to the toilet and throw up. 

10th June

My phone beeps. Current condition- critical but stable.  Do not reply to this text. We will notify you of any changes.

I drop the phone and sink back on the bed.  Why even get up? Why even shower or eat? What was the point?  A new wave of tiredness sweeps over me. I fall into an Adriatic bliss.  I hear waves lapping the shore. Somewhere in the distance, I hear music. I’m dancing on a terrace in the moonlight.  I glide in Quentin’s arms across the smooth marble tiles, the scent of geraniums in the breeze. The beauty of the night is intoxicating.

11th June

What’s that ringing? Make it stop.  I walk the few steps to the bathroom.  I grip the tap and gulp water, then collapse on the floor. I stretch my body out on the cool tiles.  Somewhere I hear voices. I’m barefoot, climbing the ancient smooth stone steps of a fortress city. I skip across them with joy, Quentin by my side.  “We made it,” I say.  

12th June

Throbbing pain. Where am I?  I struggle to open my eyes. It’s too hard. I sink back into oblivion. I taste cherry strudel in flaky pastry.  I eat it with such relish and wash it down with thick black coffee. Right now I have everything I want. Is this bliss?

26th June

The world is trying to break in.  No, I’m happy here. I feel so light I could fly like an angel. My lips are dry, stuck fast. Someone places an ice cube to my lips.  I try to say thanks but it comes out like a cough. A huge intake of breath and then a coughing fit. My lungs feel like they are about to burst. Let me die. A sting in my arm. Oblivion. I breathe in lavender scented fields.

2nd July

My eyes open.  I see the treetops waving at me through a window. An alarm sounds.  Someone brings me a drink- a straw to sip.  

“You’ve been very sick, in quarantine, the virus.”

“My husband?”

“I’m sorry.” 

“No! That’s not how its supposed to be.  No!” A sting. Back to paradise. The blue green of the Adriatic calls me home. My new reality.

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