When the clock strikes midday tomorrow, I will cross the threshold of my Quest apartment and re-enter society! No more expired yoghurt for breakfast! No more Haidee from reception telling me that dealing with expired yoghurts is not within the scope of her remit! No more hospital shower! No more eating dinner in the glow of a candle and the TV, just to avoid the white glare of the overhead light that makes the room feel like a 7/11! No more phantom knocks on my door, meals left like ghosts on the doorstep, not a soul in sight! No more calls from the lovely Red Cross volunteer who can’t get through more than a sentence of our welfare checkup without exploding into a coughing fit!
But also… No more wake-ups to the happy sound of kids playing at recess at the school across the road. No more watching entire seasons of Killing Eve during daylight hours with zero guilt about wasting time. No more workouts in my underwear, blasting old Keith Urban albums. No more cool drinks on the balcony in the evening, watching eagles ride the breeze while the sky sheds blue for pink and gold.
Quarantine might not seem like a particularly warm way to welcome a first-timer to a new part of the country, so the fact that I can say that I really do feel welcome is a credit to the Territorians who’ve looked after me over the past two weeks. Special mention goes to Paula from Parap Fine Foods, who went out of her way to bring me deliveries of wine and snacks. Also, the smiley after-hours security guard who delivered my takeaway right to my door and wished me ‘Bon appetit’ on the nights when I simply couldn’t face the standard issue slab of mash topped with a grey slick of stroganoff.
Mention must also be made of the NT Police and the Welfare workers who checked in daily. Most days I was awake to answer their calls and confirmed that no I had not absconded, no I did not have symptoms and yes I had everything I needed. One morning, though, I was asleep when they rang my phone twice and my room twice. I woke to the sound of a booming knock on my door and a man’s voice saying, ‘Please open up, this is the police’. In my hurry to comply, I rushed groggily to the door wearing a singlet. In the corridor stood a male police officer in uniform and two female welfare workers with lanyards and clipboards. All three of them were smiling. All three of them glanced down – then quickly back up at me. All four of us knew then that I’d forgotten to put pants on. I tried to do the lean-your-top-half-out-the-door-and-hide-your-legs trick, but struggled to look casual. Oh well. At least they had visual confirmation that I was still there. And at least I was wearing a singlet.
Finally, even though I’m not a real Territorian and even though it feels a bit funny, I am also going to acknowledge me. I was nervous about the effect two weeks of total quarantine would have on my mind and my body. Maybe I over-prepared but, in any case, as this period comes to an end, I recognise a resilience and resourcefulness in myself that makes me feel braver than I did fourteen days ago. In case you’re interested, here are some of my proudest quarantine achievements:
I invented a new type of salad. I got really good at doing remedial work on soggy burgers to salvage the fillings I considered worth it (i.e., bacon). I relished the disappointment I felt at past me every time a Woolies delivery arrived carrying only healthy stuff. I killed two hours correcting, with a red pen, an astonishing number of misspellings of ‘MacDonnell Ranges’ in the NT Life tourism magazine (McDonnell, Macdonell, McDonnel, McDonalds…).
Yes, I think ‘wholesome’ is a fitting adjective for the life I’ve lived in this little space for the past two weeks.