London | Rapunzel

Well, after spending much of December chortling at all my friends getting struck down and locked away with Covid, I got struck down and locked away with Covid. I developed a cough on the 2nd of January, and tested myself on the 3rd. Within seconds the latty flow showed up an absolute wedge of a positive line, and I was very cross and upset.

I was cross and upset because being stuck in my little bedroom at Streatham Hill has been the bane of my life for the past… well, for the entire time I’ve been in London. Time moves differently here. In Tasmania I could spend thirteen hours in a rocking chair watching ants zigzag across the porch, and I’d have considered that a day well spent. In London, if you sit still for more an hour you feel as though you’re missing out on something – and what’s worse, you probably are. Two days of inactivity is an nail-biting eternity. London people are the busiest people I’ve ever come across, and when you live among them you feel compelled to be busy all the time too.

The prospect, then, of sitting still not for one hour or two days, but for almost two weeks, made me want to roll about on the floor and scream like a goat. Okay, I told myself, just hang in there. It’s only ten days. Just stay calm, be rational. You have a tendency to make things more dramatic than they need to be. Just take it easy this time, okay?

*****

Forty-five minutes into my quarantine I shaved off all my body hair. Eyebrows down: bald. I hadn’t intended to. I’d gone into the bathroom for a wee, then caught sight of my electric shaver and decided to trim the edges of my beard a little. Then, without any conscious thought process, I found myself grinding the shaver through the centre of my moustache, giving myself an inverted Hitler ‘tash. Fuck it – not like anybody was going to see it.

In a sort of gormless preening trance, I continued. I shaved off my sideburns, then shaved my cheeks and chin. Then I took off my t-shirt and looked at my torso, and I thought: why not? I shaved it. I shaved my chest, and my stomach. I whipped off my short and curlies too, and then I shaved my bum.

This hair-chopping frenzy only ended when my shaver died. When the whirring ceased, I snapped back to reality, like when Frodo is going all cross-eyed and woozy about to put the ring on his finger and Sam slaps it away from him. I looked at myself in the bathroom mirror, at my hairless, Christmas-swollen torso all curvaceous and pillowy like a Renaissance cherub. And I thought: oh.

If you’d asked me in 2019 where I thought I might be in January 2022, I’d probably have said ‘travelling South America.’ I might have said ‘writing my next novel’ too, or perhaps ‘working on a six pack’. If you’d asked me in 2019 where I thought I might be in January 2022, I certainly would not have answered ‘completely hairless, riddled with disease and imprisoned’.

Alas.

*****

Aside from this brief-but-potent moment of insanity, my week in isolation has been really quite pleasant, actually. I’ve not so much made myself a routine as I have given myself a flexible mental to-do list for each day. I don’t have to tick everything off if I don’t want to, and the order I do stuff doesn’t matter at all, but as long as I do 75% of the list on any given day, I am content.

This list includes: play guitar, play piano, edit my novel, practice my French, read the Count of Monte fucking Cristo (endless book; good but endless), play The Last of Us on Playstation, do physio exercises for my rickety shoulder, post book-related shit on Instagram, drink however much water you’re supposed to drink in a day, and do my actual, salaried job.

And I’m finding I quite like it, you know. Being locked away like Rapunzel has quashed the endless fear of missing out that plagues me so in this city. I don’t care what everyone else in London is doing, because I am diseased and nobly quarantining myself for the good of humanity: a selfless, smooth-skinned hero.

Tomorrow is my last day in quarantine, provided I test negative on the ol’ latty flow. I’m almost sorry it’s over so soon. Last night I stayed up until 2am eating Hula Hoops and completing The Last of Us, and this evening I’m excited to start playing The Last of Us Part II. Usually my weekends are spent going out and throwing pints in the general direction of my mouth, and I always regret it on Monday. It’s nice to be a reclusive hairless nerd for a while.

And anyway, with what I’ve got planned for spring and beyond… I think I’ll be very glad of a quiet, relaxing winter. 2022 may have started weirdly (fat, hairless, diseased, gibbering), but when the warm weather hits it’s going to pop the fuck off.

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