My Doorstep Bubble – Anonymous

Primrose Hill Short Story Entry

As C-19 mumblings gathered momentum – and credence, so did the
collective voice of the nation’s stomachs. In our millions we flooded
& stripped the food (e-)aisles – the all important stomach-related item
of loo roll inc. Who knew if our farmers & manufacturers could retain
their exceedingly long-proven & star ability to provide for us. The
chatter of the earliest Zoom apéritifs was dominated by delivery tips
for ageing parents and a mounting realisation of the Herculean task
ahead of feeding one’s home clan. With no such angsts, and as
someone who was born worried, I felt distinctly out on a limb – and
uncomfortably comfortable.


In the very same way that our C-19 living started with food, so did my
bubble – as I became quite frankly an astonishingly accomplished
meat-selecting vegetarian and a mesmerised local in the supermarket
freezer section – but EVERYTHING Mr Bond is available with ice.
And so I collected & scrolled shopping lists, nervously debated
replacements – and loitered at the doorsteps of strangers. Strangers
who were becoming strangers to the outside world, for so many
reasons. They were all but ‘under house arrest’.


At first, doorstep chatter was limited to the bags at my feet and the
occasional reference to the T-H-I-N-G itself. The knowledge
gathering was all mine. Forget ‘through the keyhole’, ‘through the
shopping list’ offers kaleidoscopic enlightenment.


Very quickly, the expressions of gratitude at each delivery became
uncomfortable. Happily justifying daily jaunts on my bicycle beneath
near perfect skies and discerningly gathering my own supplies across
a myriad of shops by default simply wasn’t a hardship. In a very
British way I mumbled such words as ‘it really is my pleasure’ but the
imbalance remained, increasing with each delivery and doorstep
chatter. There was a rising sense of indebtedness. It just didn’t feel
alright.


Then ‘bubble’ entered the C-19 lexicon. Bubble forming, bubble
sharing became a No. 10 thing. As my C-19 mantelpiece became
heart-warmingly awash with bubble invitations, I realised I already
belonged to a bubble – and just like those blowing bubbles we all
delighted in as children, it glinted with the most enchanting rainbow.


Doorstep chatter had quickly moved from the shopping list and bag
comparison, we had all started to share. Life stories, reflections,
anxieties, hopes, foibles, emotions of the moment. We had connected – and TWO-WAY. I began to explain there was no need to feel
indebted, I was receiving so much at very doorstep. The exquisite gift
of the Hare Krishna blessed apple, the learning of the human warmth
at the heart of Shabbat, the sharing of a black British family split
between the UK and US by the sudden strike of lockdown. The
knowledge that my moon is exalted, that a lettuce can be too hairy,
what being 80 and female might look like, that SPAM is very much
alive. And on, and on, and on. So much enrichment that I would
otherwise have never received – and savoured.


The fundamental biological need for food brought us together. I
stocked their fridge & food cupboard. I stocked my fridge and food
cupboard. The families joined together around the food. Those living
alone – me inc., delighted in the sensual joy of the food in an
otherwise somewhat joy-lacking time. That food also offered
connection beyond – at a time when the human race has craved
connection. And each doorstep in my bubble only connected to me. I
have connected with them all. The real thank you is from me to them.
And one day, sort of soon, we will share food and celebrate the
renewed recognition of human connection. Every cloud and all that…


Vive la mutualité. Feed on, love on

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