Shit to buy once this is all over. A short story by Imogen. L. Smiley

When asked about my buying habits in lockdown, I would like to say I’ve been good. My brother blew his savings on shoes and gym clothes, new games to play while stuck in quarantine. My sister refused to let me know how much she spent online on clothes, she said the “post pandemic parties would be killer”, and I nearly smacked her over the head. My dad; the house bibliophile is existing with a constant lifeline of literature coming through the letterbox. I know for a fact my older sister Christina was rejoicing over the character customisation in the new Animal Crossing. She bought a console just to play. And, after watching her play for three days straight, my older brother Troy, bought a copy of the game too. Lucky for some. Oh to have savings.

He always said he was saving that money for a rainy day, ‘Tina said the same. Turns out lockdown’s just monsoon season for them.

I wish I could say the same. Instead, I have a shopping list two A4 sides long. I called it “Shit To Buy Once This Is All Over”. The first thing on the list, is concealer. Once you’re allowed to return to the real world, strangers are bound to fear your sunken eyes from sleepless nights, and few will look you in the eye; fearful they have come face to face with a phantom, or a poltergeist of dejected key workers that slaved through an apocalypse, taunting those who played roulette with disease for a packet of rich teas. Yes, I’m salty. Of course I am.

I wonder what my mum would say, if she would agree. She always loved to splash the cash when she and dad were still married. But, right now, I think she’d agree with me. She and her new husband, Neil, work at a hospital further up the country, and I swear now is the most frequently I’ve spoken with her since the divorce. There’s no spite there, just distance. But, I guess, being in the danger zone makes you worry about what you last said to your kids. We fight over who gets to talk to mum now, we all want to tell her we love her and we’re proud of her before she inevitably starts snoring into the receiver. It’s hard being a key worker right now.

I’d like to say I’ve used lockdown productively; I certainly haven’t spent all of my money. Cough, cough Troy, cough, cough, ‘Tina. But, most of the stuff I took with me when we moved house in February is still in boxes, photos I got developed before Christmas are without captions and are yet to be stuffed into albums. My room isn’t clean, but then again, when is it? And in seven weeks, I haven’t picked up a book, let alone read every one on my shelf.

My siblings are summer-bod ready, I’ve never really been a gym person; they spend most of their days together, on multiplayer games, or at least gaming in each other’s company. But, they have alarms set for their runs. And, as permitted, they run together for an hour. Non-stop.

But, even if I didn’t manage to join them today, and it’s pretty much a given that I won’t be coming tomorrow, I did manage to do something. Lockdown is bizarre; a constant explosion of opportunities to adapt, but also to decay. I started learning French again. From the minute I got to university, I knew that I missed languages. Academia stressed me out, but I missed being able to communicate in more than just English. I’ve almost made it a consistent habit, but just like eight years ago, grammar is kicking my ass. I think a little green owl is helping with the habitual practice though, or should I say “une petite chouette verte”. Was that right? Oh who cares, I tried.

I also finally registered to be an organ donor! That was a thing! I had been wanting to do it for so long. Troy and ‘Tina have been bugging me to do it since I blew out the candles on my eighteenth birthday. I just exist in a space of perpetual procrastination. Sometimes they just ask, and I’d have to admit that I still hadn’t done it. Other times they’d all but force me to fill out the form. I don’t even know what was stopping me, maybe life, maybe the pace of things. I don’t really know, but I’m glad that I finally got my act together and signed up. Finally, I know. But no time like a global pandemic to realise how important it is to help others where you can.

I’ve been well-behaved too, tempted by the neon graphics taunting me with declaration of product reductions. I didn’t spend my birthday money; I haven’t had the chance. I was in lockdown on my birthday. I feel bad whenever I see those memes; the ones talking about spontaneous furlough purchases, how much people spend on online shopping out of boredom. There are workers in those warehouses risking death at the hands of a virus we don’t have a vaccine for yet, just so Becky can have her sequin bodysuit to wear while she sunbathes on her patio. Equality and fairness in a nutshell.

But in the truest form of duality; whenever I check my balance I hear its cruel laughter. it’s mocking me in my bank. I’ve not had this much money of my own since I was a student, and it had to last me three months. It’s strange for your balance to not be overdrawn. But, I like it.
It’s weird to be attempting to work out again. Not that Troy and ‘Tina know I’m doing it, I wouldn’t live down the shame.

I never really did it religiously, exercise. I’ve never had a healthy relationship with food. Everyone was a critic at school. So I became the ambassador of ridiculous diets for high metabolisms and still felt fat. I’m twice the size I was back then and can’t do four squats without needing to stop, but hey it’s a start. Abby from ten years ago would be disgusted to see me, but hindsight is a monster you cannot evade. He’ll catch you at some-point. I guess shit happens, there are worse things to be right now than fat.

But, that reminds me I need to add “buy real trainers” to my shopping list. And, depending on how long we’re stuck here, doing our part to try and keep people like Mum safe, I might just buy Animal Crossing, just to get what Troy and ‘Tina are on about.

I swear, I’ll be crying over my bank account when this is all over.


Imogen on Twitter.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *