The following piece was an entry for our Writing Competition back in Spring where we asked for creative writing pieces on the student experience of the Coronavirus lockdown. The author, Liza, is from Stockport and is an English Literature and Creative Writing BA student.
She’s done it again, folded the page over and now it’s tickling me. You know when you get an itch in an awkward place and you can’t reach it? Well, that’s exactly what I’ve got right now. I can see her sprawled across the sofa, wrapped in blankets and scrolling through her phone whilst jamming food into her mouth. Whilst I’m laying here suffering with this itch. Irritating.
She folded my page over three weeks ago now. She’s picked me up once and automatically put me down again. Abandoned. Hello, have you forgotten about me? It’s no good, it’s too hard to get her attention. I have been forgotten about. Up until three weeks ago, everything was going well, I was being picked up and read most days.
Now, I’m an ornament. At the start, I thought it must be the holidays because she set up a paddling pool up outside for the children (I could see through the window). But something was different, a surreal feeling in the air like something bad had happened. They weren’t going out either... well he was, he’s been out twice and arrived back with bags of shopping, looking very harassed. They’ve had deliveries left at the door since, big boxes of fruit and vegetables. Everything is different.
Then they put the television on, and I heard the news: worldwide pandemic, coronavirus, prime minister in hospital, majority of workplaces closed, and schools shut. Schools shut? Well, that explains the children running around. They were different too: the youngest (I’ve heard them call her Ninja) keeps trying to climb everything and cries most days because the park is shut and she, (the one ignoring me) keeps telling Ninja they can’t walk down to the ducks because there are too many people walking around and it’s too dangerous. Which results in more tears. The other one, the eldest child he seems quite happy to be at home but even he seems different, clingier. I watched them this morning, setting up a webcam and the children seemed to be doing some sort of Show and Tell with their school friends.
Maybe this pandemic is what is making her not pay attention to me. She covered me ages ago with all these coloured sticky notes, which just like that folded page are itching me like crazy. Why do they do that? You don’t see people treating fictional books in this manner, oh no those books are sitting pretty on the shelf and lovely leather bookmarks are used to mark their pages. Not me. Oh no, pages folded over willy-nilly and these awful luminous post-it notes stuck all over my glossy pages. Then to top it off I’ve been scrawled across in the margins. If only she knew how much those biro pens hurt. They drag across the page and if the pen doesn’t work, she scribbles back over where she made a letter to get the pen working again. That is so incredibly painful. Although to be fair, she used a sharp pencil once and I thought my pages were going to tear. So, it could be worse, but I do wish she wouldn’t write in my margins. As I said she doesn’t treat her fictional books this way. Well, unless they’re for study and then she’s at it again; those pastel highlighters out, striking through pieces of text.
She lost her temper yesterday: started screaming that she couldn’t cope couldn’t find the balance between homeschooling the children and doing her own study whilst trying to do a thousand and one things at home. You’re telling me you can’t find the balance? I’ve been sat here for three weeks; I know you can’t! I’m not sure how she managed to write that last TMA to be honest, and this was before the children were at home all the time and she had started acting different. She would sit there re-reading the same paragraph over and over as though it wasn’t sinking in. Flicking between the news and Instagram on her phone.
I heard him say she needs to get out for a walk. She said she was too nervous to take the kids on a walk because they’re so young and Ninja doesn’t understand the social distancing rules. He said he would take a break from work so she could get out on her own. She started crying. She told him she wasn’t coping well with this at all, her anxiety is back. She’s moved off the sofa now, I doubt she’s gone for a walk though.
Ah she seems to be heading over here, although she will probably sail right past. I wish she would pick me up. She’s got a deadline coming up, group work on the forum. I heard her on the phone stressing about it the other week. Still sat here thought aren’t I. Wouldn’t care she’s shoved the pencil case full of highlighters on my belly so I can’t breathe properly.
Hold up, she’s doing it: she’s picked me up! This is fantastic. This is the most excitement I’ve had in weeks. This is glorious, she’s unfolded my page, the itch is gone! Oh, she’s gone again, left me on the table. Woah, wait who’s this? Ah, it’s Ninja. Hang on, why is she looming over me with that pen? It looks suspiciously like a Sharpie. Where has she got that from? Oh no. No, NO! Argh my pages, she’s pulling them. That’s it. I’ve been scarred for life. She’s back. And she’s shouting. Oh god. What’s she doing, what’s happening? Why is she not helping me? She’s just picked me up but she’s shouting, “what is the point?”. I’ve been flung back on the shelf, but I’ve slipped down the back, no-one has noticed. I’m squashed here with my pages crumpled, covered in cobwebs. Well I’m never going to get found now, am I?
The front door has just slammed.
She must have gone out for that walk.