Barry walked towards us wearing his bucket hat. My brother and I wheeled our bikes closer which we would normally be riding but this time we’d decided to pay attention to the signs. Times like these cause people to think about such things.
We stopped and stood the distance apart called for by the ongoing pandemic (COVID-19). Barry started speaking.
Haven’t seen you two out here for a while. He said.
I started speaking.
Great isn’t it. I said.
How are you both? He asked.
Ten out of ten Barry, how’s things for you? I asked.
That’s good because you’ve got each other. That’s what’s important. He said and looked on.
He didn’t say it but you could feel it. I didn’t know Barry except for the walks where we’d cross paths, wave, say hello. Usually a bundle of energy. Not this time.
It’d be tough at times right, you live alone? I asked.
He agreed. I asked him if he needed help with anything. He thanked me and politely declined. He asked about our jobs, I told him I work online, my two youngest brothers lost theirs. Will (the brother next to me) told him he just started holidays but everyone had been working from home.
Barry told us about his grandchildren, he’d been speaking with them on the phone, missed them.
They each take their turns cooking dinner. Three of them, 7, 8 and 10. Do you boys take turns? Barry asked.
Yeah, I’m Tuesday, Will is Sunday, Josh is Friday and Sam is Wednesday. Mum fills in the rest and sometimes takes over Sam’s efforts (he’s still learning). We’ve been doing plenty of cooking. Some of the best dinners we’ve ever had. I said.
Oh that’s good. Same thing for me every night, chicken and vegetables. Barry said.
A serious essence of loneliness floated in the air between us. I didn’t know what to say. I concluded saying nothing was best. Sometimes it’s better to say nothing and listen instead.
Barry started speaking.
Maybe sometime you could come and cook me dinner. He said.
I didn’t know if he was joking or not. I went along with it anyway.
Sure. I said.
He laughed and waved a hand up as if to say thank you but it’s okay.
Not as many people out at this time. He looked around.
We did the same and agreed. The clouds rolled over, the headwind made it so riding the first half of the loop required an effort two or three notches above average.
The conversation got to a point where enough had been said. Have a good night Barry, I said. We’ll see you out here next time. Where did you park this time? Barry pointed, waved, said the goodbyes and walked off.
My brother and I kept going towards the end of the pier. Stopped at the end, talked to each other, about him getting stood up by a girl, about Barry doing it tough, about what was for dinner tonight.
The rule is no phones on walks or rides. Fill the technology hole with conversation instead. It’d been too long since we’d talked about whatever for however long.
Given the world is on an effective reset right now, we took time to remind ourselves of what matters.
Health always first. Physical health, mental health, relationship health, financial health in that order.
Reflecting on those at the same time as saying thank you.
Thank you to Barry for enduring lonesome nights whilst being out of reach.
Thank you to the health workers on the front lines. The ones with bruises on their faces from wearing masks for too long. The ones who have to go home and burn their clothes before seeing their family. The ones who despite severe sleep deprivation still show up and do what needs to be done.
Thank you to the workers who before a time like this would’ve been considered unskilled but are more vital than ever.
Thank you to the people making decisions with uncertainty at an all time high and a wall of people ready to cry your fault no matter what the outcome.
Thank you to the children who don’t really know what’s going on but decorate the streets and houses with teddy bears and rainbows painted in chalk which say things like, stay home, stay safe surrounded in a big love heart.
Thank you to the ones doing nothing, the ones who realise sometimes the best way to help is to stay out of the way.
Thank you to my Mum for being a jewel, saint and pillar of love all at the same time.
Thank you to the individuals sharing their wisdom and educating others because of the unreliability of certain larger organisations to do so. Strength can come from the small.
Thank you to the reader reading these lines and thinking about who they’ve got a chance to acknowledge.
Of course, this list is incomplete and it’s specifically focused on the events unfolding. But even outside such events, many would stay the same.