Born in Essex, studied first at the University of Chester and then at the University of Liverpool. She now lives in an attic in #Manchester with two black cats and (pandemic permitting) works part-time in a museum and part-time in a restaurant. @beckyannwriter
5th March 2020 (Saturday Lunchtime)
I finish wiping the back of the last chair, the final surface I need to clean, and look around at the empty restaurant, which is now fully sanitised. Ben, my supervisor and the only other staff member in this lunchtime, comes out of the kitchen. ‘Still no one?’ I shake my head. ‘That’s two hours now, not sure how much of this I can take.’ ‘Well until we’re ordered to close…’ I say. Ben sighs and heads over to the bain-marie, where no food has been prepared since our last customers left, and picks up the anti-bacterial spray to begin cleaning it again. ‘How long do you reckon it’ll be?’ I ask, making my way over to the coffee machine. ‘Till the government finally tells us to close.’ I take a cup off of the side and a teabag from out of the box. ‘Do you want one?’ Ben looks over and nods and I begin making two cups. ‘I’ve no idea but until they do we’re stuck with this reduced hours, one shift a week, bullshit.’ ‘This is the first shift I’ve done all week and there’s only been four customers. I’ve made more drinks for us than I have anyone else.’ ‘Been like this for over a week now.’ I stir Ben’s tea and put it down next to him. He wipes the last of the bain-marie, throws the wad of blue roll in the bin and takes a sip. I carry mine back out to the front and do another lap of the empty, yet pristine restaurant floor. From the window looking across to the other side of the street, I can see the Tesco express with the queue reaching out of the door. In-between all the bobbing heads there are rows of empty shelves. I sip my tea and watch as a shop assistant, sweating and struggling for breath, approaches heaving a large cardboard box full of packets of something, although I can’t see precisely what through the mass of heads. All I can see is a flurry of grabbing hands that nearly knock the shop assistant over, and before he has even reached the shelf his box is empty. Outside, people jostle; baskets and bags for life at the ready, waiting to get in. I finish my tea, wash the cup up and place it back on the side. Then I grab hold of the anti-bacterial spray and a wad of blue roll, and begin to deep clean the restaurant once more.
How much longer do we have to face time like this? Waking up at the same time each morning, not knowing what day it is and knowing it doesn’t matter because one day, hour, minute, is a twin to all the others. Fingers waking up and reaching out, touching a screen to feel close to you, your touch being out of bounds. Trying to keep connection with a buffering connection, updating each other on the daily news that, yet again, nothing new has happened today. We speak only to confirm that there’s nothing to speak about, and count the countless days between now and the next time we’ll have news. The next time we can meet in the unknown future. That future cannot be far away, but it is too far out of sight to stop the world from collapsing all around us.