Photography © Chad Parenteau
Footage from the Outside
The Year that Was
Did you close the door?
Don’t let anyone in, please.
Where’s your mask?
It’s always with me, in my bag.
Are we going to the Mall? Careful, steer clear of openings dear (sounds good right– all this alliteration?)
What does that even mean? Ya, sounds great, but do explain…uh, dear.
Stay away from openings- like doors, windows, the like. Got it?
Should I also clip on a tag that says, ‘stay away from me, I bite!’?
Are you baking again today?
Don’t you enjoy my bakes and cakes?
Well, if you’d stop experimenting with different flours, I might…… err, I mean I’d like them a lot more.
Hmmmph ….I try, humble beginnings you know.
Yeah, yeah. Mine too. Haven’t you noticed; first time ever – a beard, look! What say!
Hairy stories. I see but don’t tell.
Smiles, followed by giggles.
How about Bagels today?
You’re always thinking of food. Look at us.
Are you angry? Yea, we eat way too much, and way too often. Agreed.
No, I’m not angry. I’m working on new projects, I’m frustrated, kinda.
So you aren’t angry? I’m frustrated too.
We aren’t angry people, are we!? Hmmm, we’re two frustrated people.
Uh….usually not. Yea, two frustrated people in a ring.
What’s usual about us anymore? Yes, ringed people.
Let’s be angry. That’ll be unusual.
Are we fighting now- Ring Master? Yes, let’s, what else is there to do.
True that. High five?
Ellen and Joy stay on the sofa for the rest of the day.
Curling up, they fall asleep; entwined, entangled – two cats.
There’s a shape on the wall- looks like a meditating Buddha- Look Ell!
More like a moving Lizard hon, see…it moved, teehee.
Oh Lord! I’m losing it, aren’t I! It was still for so long that….
So are you- still, unmoving, unmoved, lizard-like….
Stop right there!
Okay, Buddha-like, better?
Yea, thanks. I’m exhausted from this tranquility.
It’s buzzing. It is not tranquil.
So am I. Let’s turn in. I want to stop. I want it to stop.
So be it.
Lights out. No dinner.
Did the man deliver?
Water (you idiot!)
Ah! No, not yet. Should I wait by the door, grab the bottles when he arrives?
Duh, no. He’ll leave them outside. You clean them up, and then drag them in.
Why won’t you?
I can’t. I’m busy.
Then you collect, put away. I have stuff going on.
I can’t. What stuff?
Gosh! Don wanna argue.
Then don’t. Do as told. We both are doing as we are told.
Doing as told I guess. Bleh. I’ll put the water away.
I’m stepping out.
Aren’t you going to ask me for what?
Order in. As always.
No, I need specific things. I’m driving down to the special store, the one that has Brussel sprouts and the like.
Ah! Okay, in a bit or now?
Why? Do you have something special planned while I’m away?
Like hell I do! I was going to blast the speakers, and dance till I die…out.
Yeah, right! I’m off. Be back sooner than you know.
Be back soon, masked.
When do you think?
Don’t ask. Let’s just get on it, you know.
We are getting on, aren’t we?
You think we can travel to Alaska later in the month.
That bad, haan!
Well……you know…..we don’t know.
Right. We don’t know. No one knows.
Outside:_Ellen & Joy
It’s time to step out.
Yep. You ready?
Not sure. But I know we must. I know sooner than later we would.
Well, that time is now.
Can’t we leave it till tomorrow.
Are you saying you don’t want to go out evermore?
Nope. Not saying. I’m used to my homely cage. It’s a scary world out there.
That it is. Always has been sweetheart.
So then, can we leave it for later. I need to prepare myself.
Like a Hazmat, bigger face mask- what?
OH I DON’T KNOW~
Hon, I’m going out for a walk; a gentle, slow and steady pace, up until I reach the corner shop, around the block.
Then I’ll turn around, and walk back. Be ready to get out— I’ll be gone twenty minutes. That’s all the time you got.
All right- Oh the pressures of the world outside! And then there’s you!
Ellen and Joy get out later that day, but return within the hour. They can’t wait to huddle back to the confines of their home.
The walls no longer cage them in, they are breathing freer.
The rooms are familiar terrain: limitless, their comfort zone.
Their kitchen is their temple- where they churn out potions to nourish their bodies.
Ellen and Joy have reunited in a paradigm that has bonded them anew. They are happier than they’ve ever been.
They no longer only see each other’s bodies- every morning, their forms are recast.
They mold into whatever shape suits the order of the day.
I Listen – Switch Footage
Joy is youthful again. Ellen says of her husband. Joy and she have been married thirty years; they inform me. They have no children. I met them at the airport, on their way to Denmark. I was on my way back from Helsinki, where I had attended a conference on ‘Psychological Dysfunctions after 2020!’.
I met some seriously irregular folk; attendees; they’d seen a day or two, back in time.
It’s been six years since the Covid Pandemic, and I sense we are eternally in its debt.
There wasn’t one conversation that didn’t speak of how much this period- almost all of 2020, taught man to reconnect,
in every imaginable way. They spoke of an essence that had been regained. They met their saner counterparts, culled from within. I didn’t quite know how to describe my experience, so I couldn’t say much. I listened.
Talking to Joy and Ellen, their bright eyes, the way they held hands and giggled, was the most rewarding event of my journey.
I returned fulfilled. It was four in the afternoon. Sylvie greeted me, paws on my chest, licking my face in all her ferocious affection. It was her and me at dinner. Maureen had gone out with friends. She was back at one am, and I was grateful to feel her slip into the covers, her fluid form blending and flowing into mine.
I couldn’t get Ellen and Joy out of my mind. I am young– thirty-five years old, married for three years now. Wife Maureen is a banker. But we don’t have what this older couple has. We had met at the edge of the epidemic. I worked with young people.
What I found common was this need to both disconnect and connect. Their disquiet was followed by the realization that life could be something else, and somewhere else. Maureen was one of these youth at one of those sessions.
They were seekers all. As was I. Maureen and I gravitated toward one another, as if by chance.
Separated by fine masks, our eyes met, we twinged, and twinned all at once.
I learnt so much about myself from her- the whys and wherefores of a life; followed by a life with Maureen.
Her footage blended with mine. It continues to, yet there is a vacuum. Perhaps that’s our no-man’s Land, and it’s needed.
I replay the recording of that year, and it’s all almost identical- the lives we led.
Who knew that the drone overhead, was recording it all, simultaneous feeds that would affect and mark the future?
Ellen and Joy led me to Maureen, as different from the one I had left at home.
I wonder, whether the future led me to the past, or that the past formed my future.
This book I’m writing, it informs my past, as it propels me ahead, to what I seem to already know.
Bizarre, yet I imagine waking up to a knowledge that is part of me, and has always been.
It truly is like watching footage from the outside, and playing at being inside, simultaneously.
Is that the gift the Pandemic left?
Kamalini Natesan is the author of Naked Beneath the Midnight Sun (Olympia, UK- 2019), and a French teacher. A classical vocalist (Indian classical), she is of Indian origin and a resident of Bangkok for now. She has published short stories and poems on various online literary platforms such as ColdNoon, Café Dissensus, OddBall, The Curious Reader and Twist & Twain.
Chad Parenteau is Associate Editor of Oddball Magazine.