Today's Calls: Pandemic Pieces on BBC Radio Devon

by Kimwei

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released May 15, 2020

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Track Name: Today's Calls Part 1, Plus Interview
TODAY'S CALLS, PART 1

The first Skype window opens and he tells me that in his country the lockdown is easing now, that yesterday he finally could get a haircut and that when he left his apartment block to go to the barber the guard did not argue about his ID card before he signed out.

Another Skype window opens and she tells me she is at home with her three boys and that it’s hard to take time for herself, that no-one is stopping her from going to her study every day yet an invisible thread ties her to each of her children, like ghosts of their umbilical cords, at a time when life feels so precious, and death roams the world taking it almost at random.

Another Skype window opens and he tells me he has started giving balcony concerts for his friends, that one woman with cancer asked for him for her birthday and that he played and sang her favourite songs, pouring music from his balcony to her conservatory like tea into a cup.

Another Skype window opens and she tells me things have never been better, that she can finally rest and the noise and pain have stopped, and for the first time in her life there is peace.

Another Skype window opens and he tells me that his father is dead. That he died yesterday alone in the hospital, a flight and 30minute drive away from this computer that I am talking to him through, which sits on the desk in a room that he cannot leave, cannot fly away from, as though nothing else exists outside of that room so in a way nothing has changed, except that the man who had loved him since before he was born used to exist outside of that room. And now he doesn't.
Track Name: Today's Calls, Part 2
She calls and tells me that her world is shrinking, that at the beginning of lockdown her world was huge - there were so many people in it, all living the same indoor life, the common ground of isolation a palpable bond. But now fewer people are in, fewer people are wanting to call. Instead they are out and about and she is forgotten, invisible and alone.

I call at the window and he is the first to answer. I see his grey beard peek out from the first floor and his bright eyes blink in the sunlight to find me standing below. He tells me he barely leaves the house, even to sit in the garden.
“I thought you said you’d rather die?” I remark, recalling his adamant refusal when he first got the letter. He rubs his beard with his hand and then draws it in a circle over his whole face.
“Turns out there’s a whole household of people who would rather I didn’t.”
As if on cue, his wife appears from the ground floor window and holds up the cat for me to wave to. Their teenage girl opens her bedroom window and pokes herself out. Together they look like an advent calendar.
“Where are the zombies?” the girl demands “the city is so empty that I keep expecting zombies.”

He calls and tells me that he’s fine, over and over: “I’m fine” he says, but then he tells me that his family is in Uganda and that lockdown there is brutal with no way getting money, getting food, and that he cannot help but feel guilty for being lucky, healthy and safe, getting furlough and supermarket deliveries when he would rather be able to teleport home.

I call at her window because it is her birthday and I have been invited to a window party. I sit in the garden on my foldable chair, being passed cake through that hole in the wall as though it is a serving hatch. I pass a gift back, sterilised of course, a new teapot for this mad hatter’s world, and watch her place it on her mantle piece.
We play charades - it’s the only thing to do.
“Film and a book” I mime “3 words”.
“Alice in Wonderland?” she asks
“How did you guess it from that?” I exclaim.
“Something in the air I suppose,” she answers simply “nothing quite feels real these days.”

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