After a few minutes one friend texted back.
“Sorry can’t talk atm - all the family out for a meal. Mad noisy here. I’ll ring you later.” Thumbs up sign.
Two hours later, another pal WhatsApped me.
“I just see your missed call now, missed it as I was in a noisy restaurant. How very 2019. Too stuffed now to do anything other than lie in a carb stasis on the couch, will give you a shout back when I’m capable of speaking and listening.”
Since C-Day in March 2020, when we went into the first lockdown, these women have been extremely cautious about their risk of contracting the virus. One of them even had it, and was quite ill. And now here they both were, out in real, live restaurants! Ordering from real menus you could actually hold in your hands, menus others had touched - and unable to hear their phones because of all the chattering and laughing around them!
Sharing tables beside other tables full of breathing, laughing, droplet-emitting life-forms, enjoying themselves without even checking the distance between their tables! Not even wearing face coverings!
In the shops, I notice, most assistants had taken the option of no longer wearing face coverings although the plexiglass screens are still up in a lot of places.
But here I was, still wearing the face-mask. The thick white one. I was shocked by all this public optimism and certitude. Then I felt lonely and miserable. Here was everyone else out enjoying themselves and here was I, cowering behind my mask avoiding crowded indoor spaces and acting like a survivor of the Bubonic Plague.
So am I the odd one out? So it’s over? Is it over? Are we safe now?
While I had Long Covid, I did a lot of listening to meditations on my phone, because, possibly for some reason to do with Long Covid, I couldn’t bear reading text. I have no idea why but for the first time in more than 50 years the printed page was anathema to me. (As were baths, coffee, wine and wearing perfume. And going for walks. My perfume bottles and l’Occitane lavender bath foam haven’t been opened in months. I’ve stopped buying coffee and wine and the dog is digging holes in the garden from the sheer frustration and boredom of not having sufficient exercise.) I still have to watch out for the fatigue but it’s much more manageable these days.
If I have it right, the evolved person does not fear death because death is no more than the night of the infinite consciousness. So we have no need to fear death because, basically, death is only a bit of a sleep following your life, and after a period you are then sent back into life as a foetus, recalling nothing of that previous existence.
But the next bit is the part that freaked me out. You are born, it is taught, into a world that you yourself and only you have manifested through your thoughts, conceptions, desires and ideas. And this, it seems, is a Good Thing.
Personally, I was horrified. Good Lord, I do not want the responsibility of manifesting another existence. Look at the potential for error in designing our own lives.
Think about the people who died horribly of Covid. Think of the terrified women and men and children of Afghanistan last summer scrambling for their lives to get out of Kabul Airport before everything went black. Think of the people in death camps, the innocent civilians murdered, the people forced to take up arms to defend their country and the families split open in the Ukraine as mothers and children race from the onslaught of Putin’s murderous assault to unknown futures.
And does this mean that like the Irish health service, there’s a multi-tiered reincarnation system where the “lucky ones” manage to manifest comfortable lives in places like Fota House, or Downton Abbey or they create for themselves circumstances that are blissfully happy, supremely powerful, mega-rich or ultra-successful?
Are these the lucky ones, somehow just better at manifesting things than the poor devils now running for their lives from the Russians? Ah, give me a break.
In the Christian version you die, and if you’ve behaved, you go to heaven. If not, there’s the alternative ending.
For me, heaven would be walking down a quiet street in the small Wexford town of Gorey and seeing my grandparents waiting to welcome me at the door of their house. It would be entering my grandmother’s kitchen to meet all the people I love once again. It would be drinking tea made in a delicate china teapot, nibbling one of her homemade buns with the jam in the bottom and picking a few grapes from the vines in my granda’s little glasshouse. One of my best childhood memories is of walking with him down to the stream on the outskirts of town holding a fishing net and a glass jar with a string around it, off to catch tadpoles and little fishes. Contentment!
The atheist version’s not so bad either. You die. The end.
I simply cannot understand the sheer cruelty of being forced to design your own reincarnation, during which, given the high potential for error at the planning stage, lets you in for cruelty, war, rape, famine, murder, betrayal, disease, slavery, disability, abduction, injury, torture, abuse, toxic pollution, child abandonment or even just the excoriating pain of being wrongly judged in the eyes of people you once trusted and loved.
Who’d really want another round of all of this?