“Do you take sugar?” P—my husband—asks through the car’s open window.
“I thought so, but wanted to double check.” he replies before disappearing back into my favourite coffee shop. Returning a few minutes later with my longed for cappuccino and a gluten-free brownie.
We’ve combined our trip with Arwen’s—the dog—daily walk and P’s weekly shopping expedition. I’m wearing my favourite t-shirt and am more dressed up than I have been in months. Yet I won’t be leaving the car.
After eight weeks of cocooning, I am allowed out in the world. My doctor advised that I stay out of shops for as long as I possibly can, hence P procuring the coffee.
That I have been able to cocoon for so long and can continue to avoid enclosed spaces and the associated larger groups of people is a privilege, but it does strange things to a person. The ordinarily mundane activities of life become the highlight of your week.
The last time I was in a coffee shop was in February. The foam on my cappuccino expertly poured into the shape of a snail. I took a photo with the intention of making a “there is a snail in my coffee” joke. I didn’t share it immediately, so when I did post it on Instagram everything had changed. It was two weeks into quarantine, for me, and the beginning of full-on cocooning.
The coffee with the snail in it suddenly felt like the most luxurious thing in the world because who knows when we’ll get back to the normality of sitting in a café.
The week before this lockdown that we’re not calling a lockdown was announced, a lunch with friends that I haven’t seen in far too long was postponed. None of us know how long this postponement will last.
Plans are no longer made with certainty. We look forward, but know things are ever-changing.
This first takeaway coffee is a signal of things to come. Of a return, however far away it is, to the small activities we do that are not really that small when we think about them.
Of connection and hugs. Of catching up with friends. Of visiting family. Of time spent people watching from the seat by the window. Of deep breaths and laughter. Of the kindness of strangers when grief means you cry in public, a lot.
We will get back to the lives we had before.
We will be with each other again.
In the meantime, may all of our takeaway coffee be served exactly the way we like it.
Paula Dennan is a writer and a feminist activist and organiser who swapped life in Dublin for the quietness of Co. Kerry, Ireland. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram @pauladennan and her website https://www.pauladennan.com/