In my nearly 77 years, I’ve never spent an extended period of time in prison.
Neither have I been marooned on a desert island with a single coconut tree, with or without a voluptuous cartoon female to keep me company. I have, however, enjoyed many solitary periods in the wild, on an epic cycling adventure from London to Winnipeg, even cocooned in an Edmonton apartment, ducking clients, ex-wives, bill collectors and other assorted riffraff.
In such times of isolation, I’ve never run short of things to keep my mind busy. I could read. I could fish. I could oil my bicycle chain. I could concoct brilliant ways to deflect bill collectors without resorting to personal insults. Yet, in recent weeks, I’ve had an increasing urge to scratch time-scoring markers on my cave walls, or draw pictographs telling future civilizations about the Great Confinement of 2020. So housebound have I been during the current plague, I seldom even bother to glance out the window and shake a livid fist at the flag-tailed rodents that have already begun rooting in my unplanted garden beds. For days on end, mine has been the only voice I’ve heard. Except for Herself, reminding me with the subtlety of a sledgehammer that a responsible diabetic eats more regularly, and even takes periodic exercise.
“Pish-tush,” I respond, so quietly even her bat-like ears can’t hear. “I feel great. I intend to live forever, just to annoy you.”
In her defence, I acknowledge that Herself is infinitely more attentive to health and bug-patrol issues than I could hope to be. Not only does she wash her hands at one-minute intervals, she swabs every surface each time she enters or leaves the house. If either of us had an appetite for the indigestible cultivar known as kale, I’m sure she’d wipe each crinkly green leaf with a Clorox-infused tissue before sneaking it into a salad under the guise of spinach. Nevertheless, being cooped up with a quasi-germaphobe isn’t really that bad.
We’ve caught up with a lot of first-class British films and TV series. We’ve had extensive internet chats with relatives. Many imaginative new recipes have made their way to the table. We’ve even embarked on a jigsaw puzzle together. Nothing massive; just a modest 300-piece scene of sailboats in what looks like a Mediterranean harbour.
On the first day, the edge bits were all laid down, along with some recognizable chunks of the middle.
Then I screwed up. I went to my credit union to deposit a cheque. I wore gloves and a mask. I used a stylus and wiped my card with isopropyl alcohol before and after. Still, Herself set the isolation clock back to zero. No puzzle for another 14 days. No nothing. Just hand washing and talking to myself.