Dear Friend,

You won't believe this but this morning I went out to buy groceries, and actually got them! I was so smug on the way home – guilty, almost, like I've done something scandalous.

It's been weeks since I've successfully done this, given the shortages. Can you believe we used to take full shelves for granted?

This morning, my alarm went off at 6:30 (then again at 6:40, then again at 6:50...) I'd planned for a run. That's right. Today, I braved the outside.


Not a large feat for someone who's only on her third day of isolation, but man it felt good to breathe again. Come 7 AM, I was laced and out the door. The run turned into a half-walking session. I've been a couch potato for weeks – I have no excuse for this.


It was cloudy, as if the weather was mocking our grim faces. Despite that, though, I walked past a man while in the park. He smiled and neighbourly said, "Good morning." And for a minute it felt like the world was okay.

Like it wasn't so much in shambles as we were. Like water still flows and birds still fly and flowers still bloom regardless of our minds' own chaos.

"Morning," I replied. And off I ran.

It's also been a while since I last ran without music on. My pair of earphones was broken and I'd only bought new ones this afternoon. So I ran this morning, forced to listen to the sounds of nature, and my unsteady feet, and someone else's phone call, and my own heavy breaths. A grand orchestra of imperfect things.

When time neared 8 AM, I had to head for the store. I imagined there'd be a line. When I got there at 8 sharp, though, it was relatively peaceful – just slightly busier than usual. I learned that grocery stores had spent the last night cutting down opening hours to replenish their stock. So I walked in at the perfect morning – at the very least, there was toilet paper.

Also, an army of employees, marching, pacing with boxes and restocking shelves. I felt a profound gratitude. What a public service they're doing.

The truth is it might be ignorant and naïve to seek "the human good" in a time like this. But, Friend, that's what I've been doing. I don't know how to stay sane if I hadn't.

Which reminds me, a few nights earlier, outside that same supermarket, I saw a girl crouching next to a homeless man. Tall, blonde, she wore yoga pants and was carrying a bike helmet. The man was eating from a box of pasta.

"What's in this, again?" he curiously asks, his face bright.

"It's eggplant, tomato, a bit of cheese.. and of course pasta!" the girl describes.

She smiles at the man. He said, "Is there egg? I could taste a bit of egg!"

"Yes, a little bit of it! In the pasta," she describes. European accent.

"Well I hope you like it!" she lovingly said, before heading to her bike. The man thanked her a hundred times. They both bid farewell.

Inside, that night, the supermarket was empty – stripped bare of its fresh produce or decently baked bread. But the man had his pasta, and, if not for a brief moment, at least his world was well.

After going home and unloading my groceries, and taking a much needed shower, I, again braved the outside world today. I had some work to do.

A sense of paranoia loomed. Was I teasing death? The walk to the city, I was – vigilant, to say the least. Pulling my shoulders in to avoid passersby. Pressing traffic lights with my elbow.

In this strange time I always wonder, am I too concerned or not concerned enough? The dilemma manifests in everything I do. Today I scavenged three pharmacies to find alcohol wipes.

The city, too, was barren. Drained of its liveliness, its "hustle and bustle". There were much fewer people, or cars. Even in malls, which would've normally been packed with tourists.

I pass the State Library frequently. This week, along with every public library, it was closed. Through the windows, I caught a glimpse of its foyer. Its lights and screens still left bright and on. As if to entertain itself.

Mr. Tulk, the café next to the library, would always have a blackboard sign out front, with a clever pun about avocado toasts, and a small cart offering coffee and treats. Lunch time would've been peak hour. When I passed by at 12 today, their tall wooden doors were locked. Their outdoor umbrellas wrapped tight. It left me a feeling I couldn't name.

On the other hand, not far from there, a crépes stall had not left their ground. After I passed the closed library, there they were. Decked out with their twinkling lights, Parisian stickers, and a sign: Student Deals! 2x Nutellas for $10! This small round chuckwagon in the middle of a sparse crowd. As if teleported from another universe. As if the lady wouldn't know why everyone was so glum.

I spotted three street musicians on my way to work today. One played rock on an electric guitar. Another sang the blues.

Much fewer people were in the office today, understandably. I never thought I'd miss the ever-present chatter or noises from the coffee machine. Not until our working space was completely devoid of it. Again, a feeling I couldn't name.

Tonight, I sit here, having lost count of the times I've washed my hands or used my sanitiser. After seeing the outside world, after the wave of unease and discomfort, I cling to things that hold my ground. My clean bed sheets. My mother's voice. Some things refuse to be upturned. The playlist I listened to on my way to work. The crépes lady. The guitarist who sings.

And at the end, here we are. Here we all are.

Braving the odds.

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From a Distance 
is a blog series documenting this new life in the social distance. Paper airplanes flown out my window, hoping to reach yours. For connection. Companionship. A little human-ness in this very strange time. My hope is to make you feel a little less lonely. If you are. Whoever you are.


Thank you for reading. I'll talk to you soon.

Signed,
Jo

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P.S: Looking for Netflix shows or movies that won't make me cringe or tear my eyes out.
I'm currently trying to stomach "All the Bright Places", and am rotting from its cliché-ness.

Any suggestions? Hit me up!