Corduroy and denim

It all started because Maddie needed new trousers.

For several weeks Maddie had been wearing black corduroy trousers to school. They were hand-me-downs from me, fit her well and looked really cute, but they were black, and that broke the school uniform policy. I had suspected as much, but Maddie thought they were okay, and truth be told I think she just wanted an alternative to the navy skirts she was wearing every other day of the week. Who could blame her?

She started an online search for some alternatives in navy or khaki, and when the Fat Face sale email arrived, I forwarded it over to her to have a look. She picked a pair of navy cords and some jeans, which she also needed, and the order went in A few days later they arrived, and like every pair of jeans I have bought myself since the start of the pandemic, they didn’t fit. The trousers were gaping around the waist and the jeans were falling down. The corduroys went into a hot wash to try to shrink them and ultimately were sent to the alteration lady which made them cost more than what we saved in the sale. The jeans went back into the bag to return and sat at the end of my bed, waiting for me to package up to put back in the post.

On Friday night, I had a dream about covid. I have them frequently and always dream in metaphor: cars crashing, buildings I can’t escape, tunnels that get smaller and smaller. In this one Richard and Maddie and I were hiking in suburban neighborhood. We came across a trip wire we knew was there, and Rich and Maddie stepped easily over it. I got caught up in it, and it got wrapped around my neck, choking me. I finally got myself free of it but I couldn’t find Rich and Maddie through the fog. Covid. Long covid. Perfect.

I woke up and told Maddie I would take her jeans shopping. 

I don’t even know why. I am over 1000 days into shielding and for three years I have said no to concerts, to theatre, to restaurants, to school events. I have declined parties and dinners. I have avoided trains, and travel for work. I have shopped online and never once in three years have I bought jeans that fit. But we sat down to breakfast, and with the trip wire echoing in my brain, I made the offer.

Maddie was shocked but delighted and we made our way together to the nearest store. I picked the branch I thought would be quietest. I wore my high-powered mask, ignoring the stares of the other maskless shoppers and used the hand purifier I carry in my pocket. I avoided the queues and skirted around any other humans. I marveled at the paper bags, the ticketless car park and the rejuvininated shopping center, all completely different than the last time I properly went shopping nearly four years ago. Maddie commented that I seemed a bit lost. I felt it. But we came home happy, with jeans that fit. When someone asked me about my weekend on Monday I said I had fun and it was actually true.

That was Saturday. This is Tuesday. It’s 4am and I can’t sleep because my throat feels like it’s on fire. I’m testing negative for covid at the moment and yet I still can’t help but feel like I’ve gotten caught up in the trip wire.


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