As it rains outside I sip on a caf, blowing on the steam that curls in front of my terminal. The overnight messages are stacked and waiting. A tick of anxiety ripples through me as my body comes online, ready to fight another day at work. Never ending tasks. Always a losing fight.
From a light grey sky, the air feeds a thirsty ground. Weeks of heat have eased, and the world takes a breath. A window is open in the hab, and a cool breeze flows in. It is quiet but for the hushed fall of water.
Ignoring my terminal, I sense a pause around me that goes deeper, reaching into the communities in which we live. We gather ourselves on on a hope. Maybe, we think to ourselves, things might be about to get better.
We falsely see the end of Lockdown in the easing of restrictions, finding ourselves able to move more freely again. But the virus is still abroad in the world, stalking us through the maze of our lives. Infection levels are down but could explode when it finds its way in again. What we are seeing is the necessary yield to pressure – social, psychological and financial – as a balance is sought between keeping us in our habs to avoid the virus, and averting a worse disaster by letting us out.
I understand the contrast. I get it. I feel it. I, too, need it.
I’m thinking of rain, fifty miles east. Lyrics from a song. I call out, asking the hab to play a specific album. The rain outside has triggered memories, and through the music I let them rise. The first tune starts with a quiet that matches the day; singing of the ghost, stepping into a world of grey. I remember friends. Years past. Nights in the speeder on Wildland roads, headlights casting into the forested dark ahead. Lost loves, lost dreams.
I don’t own a speeder anymore, and time has wrought its way with those friendships. Some do still stand, towers rising above the fog of time, though others are lost in the haze. Gone forever. Those nights of young freedom feel distant, unreachable, but I’m not entirely given over to melancholy; not at all. I’ve been on the back foot for years, now, but Lockdown has at least given me time to think and to plan.
I’ve picked up a small hopper. A crank-powered bike; it is heavier than my main ride, but more compact. It can be folded in half. I now have something to get around on that doesn’t require specialised gear and clothing, and that doesn’t run an expensive risk when locked outside. The gutters of Citadel are rife with crime, flowing throughout the city, finding their way to every corner. Sometimes it is easy to forget this, but the reminders are invariably harsh.
The Lockdown isn’t gone. It is simply yielding, incrementally, for now. What we have been given back is a synthesis of our old lives. Less liberal, less communal, but there is some hope, and my hopper will help me exploit this. I am untethered from the transit system over short distances, now, lowering the risk of exposure to the virus without running the risk of theft. I have made a list of districts in the area that I wish to explore, and I think forward to a time when I can do so. Sure, I could explore right now, but I want to see and see the communities in these areas, not just the buildings. So I wait for the easing, and I ready myself.
Lockdown broke a lot of the old routines. A lot of the old inertia. It broke rules, it broke expectations. It broke bonds, hearts, careers and minds. But also chains.
I spin on my chair, and despite the thoughts playing through my mind I grin a little lopsidedly at the neon-orange hopper.
Incongruous in the small hab, it is declaration that I have decided not to lie down. It is, to me, a compact and bright reminder that there are, yet, ways forward.