Love and loss in Quarantine by Beth Tomlin


Short Fiction by Beth Tomlin

Love and loss in Quarantine

Ten of us allowed
Two meters apart

The vicar was a friend
Of mine, and of hers
She cried and apologised
That she couldn’t hug me
Said it wasn’t in her nature
To be so far apart
From the grieving

We followed the hearse
In our own cars
The flowers we’d chosen
Weren’t available
Given the pandemic

Each of us took a separate pew
In the tiny crematorium chapel
When we sang morning has broken
I could hear every tremor in our voices

We still had the song she wanted
Oh Jesus I have promised
Still wept as we would have
Shared memories as we would have
Grieved as we would have

She slept not knowing of the world outside
How much things had changed since she passed

How much had stayed the same

Remember isolation?

I used to live alone. I had a flat with wide windows and poetry pinned to the walls. I had colourful
throws on every surface; two sofas from a charity shop that someone else had already worn in for me.
Delicate net curtains and tin saucepans and one of those metal hanging racks instead of a wardrobe. The
flat faced the Thames, cornered in by a graveyard on one side and a train-track on the other. The rough
end of town, out by the council estates, away from the artsy, literary, city of spires stuff and towards the
retail parks and forgotten launderettes. The neighbours smoked outside all hours of the day; always
chatty, always wanting to borrow something, always creating the background noise that made me feel
less alone. I used to curl up on the sofa with a book and cup of tea and wonder how something so small
like a tiny mouldy ground-floor flat could feel so much like everything I ever wanted. I had peace and
space and lightness. My own company stopped feeling so much like a weight on my shoulders. I bought
myself flowers. Romantically sprinkled lavender sprigs into my baths. Coming home to my little flat
and sitting with myself felt like sitting with a friend.
Isolating in a house of seven people makes you romanticise certain things

11 September 2020