The city is like bread and the stay-at-home order in Ontario

My dad called this afternoon after he heard the news about Ontario increasing restrictions to help prevent the further spread of COVID-19. I thought the announcement happened at one o’clock in the afternoon; I spoke with him at around three. Maybe the news took a while to get to him. We are in different time zones.

No matter what time of the day it is, Indian parents always seem to be thinking about food. For my dad, bread seems to be the most important food staple. When he asks if I have enough food, he starts by asking if I have enough bread in the house. Despite enjoying the baking of bread, I don’t eat a lot of it, but I keep sliced bread in the freezer for when I want it. I told him that there’s enough food in my apartment, that, in fact, I don’t have room enough for any more.

I wasn’t in the mood to talk much, what with my head being fuzzy from a day spent online, teaching to a classroom full of black rectangles on a screen with little red microphones in the bottom left-hand corner. My dad wasn’t calling to chat so much as to check-in. I told him that I’m all right, that I’m okay insofar as being “okay” is just being not bad given the situation we’re in. I said that I’ll definitely try to get out for a walk tonight and tomorrow before the most stringent of restrictions take effect.

After speaking with my dad, I sat down on the couch and opened YouTube. I wanted to hear the announcement that was made in the afternoon. As I was sitting there, next to Riel, who was snoring gently on the seat to my left, with a family-sized bag of Munchies in my lap, a feeling of sullenness came over me. I could feel my body sink further into the couch cushion as I listened to the premier discuss the difference between a stay-at-home order and a curfew. The left leg of the 800-pound gorilla that he referenced was weighing down on me.

I’ve been trying to make the best of this situation. I set myself up real nice in the den of my apartment; I turned the desk away from the wall to make it feel more like a real office. I’ve been working on this writing project, doing yoga in the evenings, going for photo walks, reading books, and baking cookies when I want something sweet. I’ve really been trying to find ways to keep myself entertained and sufficiently challenged. But, it’s getting a bit long in the tooth, now.

Somedays, I’m overcome with uninspired anger. I’m not responding to anything in particular with my anger. Indeed, it starts before anything else in the day has. Other days, the melancholy of the situation leaves me reflective. Without any forewarning, my vision has been blurred by tears welling up over nothing more than silence.

The thought of another month of further restrictions is difficult to comprehend. Practically, not much will change about my days. I’ll be allowed to go for a walk (leaving my camera at home), get groceries, and visit the pharmacy if I need to. I can still order from stores online and have it all delivered to me. Psychologically, this feels like the tightening of a vice.

When all of this started last year, I wanted to see it as an opportunity to make up for lost time. I thought it’d be a great opportunity to dust off some of my old notes and see what I had left unfinished. I could finally invest some time into writing a novel or collection of short stories, take pictures again, or see if I can’t get a YouTube channel going. It was an opportunity to pay off some debt and save some more money. It was a chance to look into new opportunities to make money with some of my interests. It was the time that we’re always all asking for.

Even though there’s likely little that I’d do differently if the restrictions were being lifted, the loss of opportunities is what I’m troubled by. I moved to a big city because I want the experience of living in a big city. There are no shows to see, dinners to attend, or parties to stumble home from. While I don’t enjoy the unpleasant exchanges with strangers that used to litter my day, I’m quite happy to be the curmudgeon that I am when out in public. Being home as much as I have been has forced me to change. Now, I’m more in control of my environment than I’ve ever been and it’s disconcerting. The voice that I hear most is my own.

Maybe my dad isn’t too far off with his penchant for bread. On its own, it’s bland. It’s so commonplace that most of us rarely take notice of it, but we can appreciate an artisanal loaf. When toasted and buttered, it can serve as a nice, light snack, perhaps with a slice of cheese. Layered, bread can bookend a sandwich. Even though it’s stale bread, croutons are a welcome addition to a salad. And, who doesn’t like to sop up the yoke of a runny egg with a triangular slice? Like the bread in my house, the city is just going back in the freezer until we’re ready for it.


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