To Bastardise Cold Chisel, the last plane to Sydney is almost gone.
There are about a dozen of us on this Virgin flight, going into a city, as they say on the news “that’s on the razor’s edge.” Covid numbers have risen, but Gladys won’t crash, right?
I am flying to Sydney because I have signed a lease for a flat and arranged a truck to transport the fridge to the flat. Until now, the luck of the confinement has been on my side. I have missed four closures in two states now, each for a matter of days.
But flying to Mascot feels different this time, less like he’s hopefully escaped and more like he’s stepping into the jaws of the tiger.
That night, the NSW government issues a one-week stay-at-home order for seven LGAs, including the one I’m moving in.
I pick up the keys to the new apartment and meet the mover, Mohommed. I ask him if he’s had a busy day and he says yes; It has been resounding because there are rumors of a longer lockdown and there were all these last minute reservations because “people are going crazy and put away their furniture and move with their children to their parents’ house outside the confinement areas” . That seems weird. It’s not about the people fleeing the eastern suburbs, but the storage side.
But I guess Mohammed is not paid to ask why.
Picked up my friend Alyx’s fridge in Newtown. It is huge and I almost died under it when Mohammed tries to lower it down a flight of stairs while I try to stabilize it from below. It is so huge that it does not fit in the kitchen, so it must go in the bedroom. This does not bode well. How many balanced people have a huge refrigerator in their bedroom?
Before Mohammed leaves, I ask him again about the rich people who have put things away this morning. Repeat the story; rich people, storage, leaving the eastern suburbs. “Wild,” I say, before I tweet it.
First stop as a new resident. I go to my new place and buy a coffee. The owner is packing the outside tables. “The whole city is closed,” he tells me, before handing me the copy of the coffee’s Friday AFR. It is fresh and has not been touched by human hands. This must be serious.
People on the internet are upset about my storage tweet. They don’t believe it Has no sense. In fact, they know rich people and, for example, rich people do not use storage. Storage is common.
I’m going to Bondi Junction to buy furniture. The Westfield is super empty. It’s just me and a guy with a strapped baby running between levels trying to find the Nespresso store. “Pods! I need capsules for the closure. “
I tweet a photo of Bondi Junction Westfield and write that it looks empty. People freak out because there was Covid there last week and someone made me a meme that looks like I’m in the middle of a garland of roses, but on closer inspection it’s Covid spikes.
But Bondi Junction Westfield is probably the safest place in Sydney right now – it’s as empty as a backyard to begin with, it’s had a deep clean, and its entire staff has been tested.
That night at Potts Point, it’s the last dinner before the lockdown. I drink martinis and eat a lot of focaccia and cold cuts with some friends who have spent the week in court. The details of the trial and the impending lockdown and the eerily empty streets of Potts Point and the gloomy cheers of the waiters infuse the night with a kind of manic energy.
I remember the last time I had one last night before the lockdown. We were in a pub in Castlemaine in March 2020 and everything seemed intensified, the conversation vacillating between giddy and intense. The days of confinement blur into a heavy lump, but the night before it starts and the night after it gets up seem to have a peculiar intensity: shiny gold bookends on a shelf full of boring texts.
On Saturday, the first full day of confinement, I go down to the lobby of my hotel. It is deserted, the streets are empty and there is a lone employee at the desk, behind a plastic barrier, wearing a mask.
The clerk tells me that most of the guests have left, or never checked in in the first place.
It’s like a scene from Death in Venice (“Listen!” Said the loner, in a low voice, almost mechanically; “they are disinfecting Venice – why?”)
I’m going to my new apartment. It is empty except for a fridge in the bedroom.
Suddenly I feel very tired.
I wake up feeling bad so I get some sleep and then I get tested for Covid. In the sun, on the way to the test site (on foot), the parks are full and there is an almost festive atmosphere. A man has strung a long rubber rope between two trees and is trying to walk a tightrope. A four play tennis on the nearby courts, people lining up in a socially distanced way to enjoy the fig, pistachio and honey cakes. I stay away from people, but apparently a woman follows me on a long and tortuous phone call. “I know everyone thinks I’m a bad person, and what I did was very, very bad, but I can’t think of myself that way. I I have like myself. I have to!”
I wonder what he did.
The testing clinic is in a very beautiful location overlooking the Harbor Bridge. There is no queue.
Has it been tested before?
And suddenly there he goes, with the swab in his nose.
Friends call and offer to drop off food at my hotel. They are baking sourdough again.
Back at my lodge, I isolate and read Thomas Mann’s Death In Venice and rewatch Bo Burnham’s comedy special Inside. The combination of the SOURDOUGH offerings, the fear of having caught and spread the Delta variant, Bo Burnham slowly going mad in a room in 2020, and Thomas Mann’s anti-hero in cholera-ravaged Venice (“it burned his head, his body I was damp with wet sweat, I was plagued by an intolerable thirst ”) send me into a spiral of depression.
Of course, this spiral is out of proportion to my current reality. I have been isolated for only a few hours and the lockdown is in its second day. Like them handle it in Melbourne for so long? I’m impressed.
Monday 6.50 a. M.
Wake up with a text on the pathology of San Vicente. A negative result. Hurrah! That was fast. My confinement is over. I didn’t even start writing a novel. I didn’t even finish Death in Venice (even though it’s only 42 pages long). The gloom dissipates despite the rain, even though I’ve moved into an apartment in Plague Town without internet or furniture and a fridge in the bedroom. I don’t have a bed. Besides, we’re locked up for another two weeks, at least.
But that’s okay. It’s my turn.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism