Lockdown Living: 3 Ways to Celebrate Valentine's DayFebruary 28, 2022

Searing heat, Omicron variant, and the Novak Djokovic saga. It was a summer to forget, your sister mused, so she came up with a summer music playlist. And you were shocked when Deborah Allen's "Baby I Lied" was included. You didn't show your (disgusted) reaction, even your mother pointed out that it was a huge hit during the 1980s. You could only guess that your Mum once played that song frequently, and it happened that Valentine's Day was approaching. Coincidence?

After a couple of years of enforced proximity, romance was in deep hibernation (or so you thought). But the world seemed full of love right now, expressed on quiet acts of kindness. You thought about your neighbour, one more time, who brought another dog from the shelter. You were quite envious of Violet, the name of the (black) Labrador, who had a spa day one week ago. (You don't recall your mother making an appointment for your sister.) And then your uncle asked his neighbours if they were OK. (He talked about the uncertainty of their future after one of them lost a job. He invited them on Australia Day). On the other hand, you became obsessed with Japanese literature. One of your professors lent his paperbacks that recounted the life of Miyamoto Musashi, an undefeated swordsman, philosopher, and writer. (Your professor saw a biographical film of his, where Toshiro Mifune played the titular character. He was the star of medieval samurai films during the 1950s and 1960s, but you weren't a film buff.) You were amazed at how Miyamoto Musashi took his profession (of being a swordsman) so seriously, such that he didn't let his feeling for a certain woman get in the way. You told about this series to your old mate, but he cut you off. He recommended Ryu Murakami's "Audition".

He wrote an essay about that novel (when you studied Women in Literature), about a femme fatale that he almost compared to Alex Forrest, played by Glenn Close, in "Fatal Attraction". Your professor was pleased with his essay, where he highlighted the gap between Japanese culture and the rest of the world. ("My theory is that sushi and kaiseki are dishes that evolved in peaceful, prosperous times when eating well was the normal state of affairs. In this country, we have the illusion that there's always this warm, loving community we belong to, but the other side of that is a sort of exclusiveness and xenophobia, and our food reflects this. Japanese cuisine isn't inclusive at all - in fact, it's extremely inhospitable to outsiders, to people who don't fit into the community.") As far as dishes were concerned, you weren't the adventurous type. However, you were quite unnerved about solitude in that part of the world. ("In Japan, even when you're alone, you're never really that lonely.") You didn't ask your mate if it was irony intended, as there was a change of topic (of conversation). Again.

One of your coursemates was ranting about Matthew Vaughn's version of events that led to the Great War, what happened during that war, and its aftermath. You reminded him that it was only a movie, and you doubted that watching "The King's Man" wouldn't result in jingoism - and World War III. As a matter of fact, you would recommend younger viewers to bring their parents to the sequel. (You guessed it after the mid-credits scene revealed that Adolf Hitler had a role in the Bolshevik Revolution.) The prequel to "Kingsman: The Secret Service" was an illustration of the love of another kind. The definition of nationalism changed through the years, prompting you to wonder if a two-week hotel quarantine would be considered as one. If the incidents leading to the (recently-concluded) Australian Open were any indication, you wouldn't hold your breath for the next edition. You were veering away, though.

Some Aspects of Covid Life are Fascinating

Draw on your reserves of patience. You came to a conclusion that the pandemic was dog years after you noticed your father wore (yellow sheepskin) mitten indoors. Was he testing your mother? Was he attempting to take their relationship to a new depth? It turned out that your mother saw it as a quirk of his, and she didn't criticise him. Yet. Your old man started the car for your Mum when she had to go out on a very hot day. (You stayed in your room and finished another book.)

Love is all around, so you must boost everyone's spirit. A bakeshop, which was several blocks away from your home, was selling heart-shaped doughnuts. It was THE week after the Djokovic saga, and not a few wondered if not a few politicians were counting on your vote. But it wasn't. (A lad opened the door to a poorly bubble lady. Or so you thought.) Everyone is going soft, and it has nothing to do with the (summer) heat. There seemed to be a lot of love. Always?

Be creative to amuse your bored friends. You were relieved that you weren't sharing a room with your coursemates, as the pandemic would test each other's limits. A couple of your mates were getting bored with the remote-learning setup, wondering if you could resume face-to-face learning (in South Australia) next season. You figured out a solution in less than a minute, asking each one to name their favourite holiday destination and the first book that came to mind (during the holiday). You still recalled that exhilarating feeling after trekking the terraced fields in Sa Pa, a small community located in the highlands of northern Vietnam. You kept on looking at Fansipan, the highest peak in that region, as well as the women who kept on following you during the trek (that lasted several hours). They were selling souvenir items, and they were persistent, if not annoying. It reminded you of John Irving's "The World According to Garp", where the polarization of the sexes was one of its main themes. It gave you a weird feeling, as you don't want to compare the East and the West. (Both sides meet in Bangkok, but it would be another story.) Your coursemate couldn't wait for his turn, as the pandemic made him fall in love with cars (or so he kept on telling you during the previous chat conservation). And it had something to do with "F9". You were speechless.

I Never Imagined It Would Be So Long

As the pandemic worsened and international travel restrictions tightened, returning to Australia became impossible. Your brother missed Down Under, but not that much. He repeatedly told your parents that they should visit Florence soon. He also encouraged you to live in Lisbon. Remote work is the norm, as many dread the return to office life. You didn't follow him, and you wondered if the pandemic changed him. There was no place like home, and (cheap) adventure isn't far away.

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