Today is the day after the catastrophe ended.
I Google to check for pandemic-related stats out of habit first thing in the morning. Zero cases, zero deaths. Good. The newspapers are brimming with stories about life coming back to normalcy.
Normalcy—I wonder what that is.
I dress up for work after what feels like forever and head out. The watchman uncle greets me with a high-pitched “Good morning”. I know it’s coming from his heart, I can see. There’s no mask on his face this time. I carry one in my bag; just in case. I say “Good morning, chacha!”, and ask him how he and his family have been. He says they’re doing fine with a contented smile.
I struggle for a moment in my head. I’m not completely convinced about riding the bus. I think I should take a cab. But I see a bunch of people waiting at the bus stop just like they did weeks ago. I’ll be honest—I’ve missed travelling with complete strangers in a crowded bus. I shrug my fear and start walking towards the bus stop.
I see my colleagues, not on the Zoom interface, for the first time in over two months. I smile at the receptionist for a little longer today. Watching my team members smile widely at me as I take my seat fills me with warmth. The office cafeteria—how I have missed sitting here! I make myself a cup of coffee, and gorge on some Pringles (like I always do). I hope I have too many meetings today; I can’t wait to see everyone.
My phone has been buzzing with messages from friends who have been making plans with a lot of heart since the time we were cooped away in our homes. Only this time, we don’t wait for the weekend to catch up.
We have now seen the invisible price tag that comes along with taking people, time, and plans for granted.
We decide to meet today, post work.
The bar is overcrowded today. I think a lot of people are afraid to cancel plans now. For the first time in so long, I see people sitting close to each other, sharing food, hugs, kisses, and holding hands. Precious little things we always took for granted. I start reading the menu, even though I know it by heart by now. After going through all of the twelve pages, I order the item I’d always order during each one of my visits. Life may be too short to order the same things over and over, but today is dedicated to wrapping ourselves in the sweet sense of familiarity. Trying new cuisines can wait for now.
The bar has announced happy hours, apparently. We order one too many drinks because God knows how much we’ve missed the kick! The owner is present at the bar. Each one of the staff members is overjoyed to watch the space fill with customers; a lot of them are regular faces.
Today is not about the business—it’s about the many reunions that were long overdue.
We leave a fat tip after we’re done. We want to make up for all the appreciation we failed to give in all this time.
Mom has been calling incessantly because it’s late and I’m still not home. This time, I’m not tensed about going home to her fully-rehearsed lecture.
It’s funny how I’ve missed being scolded for not getting back home in time.
I get home, overstuffed with all the drinks and food, yet ask mom to serve me a little bit of whatever she has cooked. She’s the one who ran the house like a boss when supplies were limited. Now that things are back to normal, I want to respect every bit of the morsel that she puts on our plates unfailingly.
Things feel normal now, or do they?
The stars in the sky are suddenly scanty tonight. Have they disappeared or have we screwed up our pollution game already? Stray dogs were hiding behind the bushes because a bunch of teenagers thought that bursting crackers was the perfect way to celebrate their freedom. Motorcycles are roaring on the streets left, right, and center. I pass by a group of aunties who are discussing a certain family who lost a member to the pandemic. They’re blaming the deceased person’s wife for not being careful enough. Umm…what happened to all the empathy and oneness that we were talking about throughout the quarantine period?
It took us a pandemic to understand the power dynamic between humans and nature.
But once again, we’re consumed with abusing our environment, abusing the way we pollute the very air we need for breathing, abusing the way we discuss people and their loss.
I guess general disregard is our normal.
It has always been; it will always be.