“I am exploring and responding to the idea of ‘Transformation‘. I have chosen this idea based on various meanings of the word; a marked change in form, nature or appearance / a metamorphosis during the life cycle of an animal. This is highly relevant to the current situation I am experiencing since the outbreak of COVID-19, needing to adapt to sudden and drastic changes with my perspectives; a world where the most natural human instinct to connect or show affection by physical touch has to be reversed.
I have written a short story, based on my relationship that began a few days before the lockdown was announced in Victoria. As the world spun quicker, with changes that occurred daily, we made a quick decision to move in together, right before the lockdown. The circumstances of the pandemic have sped up our relationship. We had to think and act in ways that we normally wouldn’t have, choosing to be with each other over uncertainty, transforming our logic and beliefs in these challenging times. As our lives continue together, we imagine what is possible, beyond what we are going through, transforming as individuals and also as two in our relationship.”
“The meeting of two personalities is like the contact of two chemical substances: if there is any reaction, both are transformed.” - Carl Jung
We met in the park right at the moment when the world was about to invert. It was the 17th of March 2020, on a cloudless sunny day.
As I rode my bicycle into Edinburgh Gardens, I noticed a person standing near the pavilion.
“Are you wearing all black?” I said on my mobile phone.
That person was Nat. We were put in contact by a mutual friend for a drummer’s interview, and have originally planned to have a drink in the evening. But with the outbreak of COVID-19, both of us had our reservations. I have never lived in a world where I had to think twice about going out to a bar. I suggested we would meet in the park instead, where social-distancing was more likely to happen, and nature would relieve us of anxiety.
I froze momentarily, knowing that my first instinct to give a hug and say hello was unacceptable. We have arrived in each other’s lives in the midst of a developing pandemic; a world where the most natural human instinct to connect or show affection with physical touch has to be reversed.
I inhaled deeply, realizing the world was indeed inverted.
Hiding behind my sunglasses, I studied the beautiful curls that framed her features.
We talked about our tattoos, discussing the art and meaning on our skin. We strolled around the park leisurely, and said goodbye after an ice cream. On my way home, I decided to go back to my pottery school to make more things.
“Wine? I don’t feel like going home from the city yet.”
“Sure! See you in a bit.”
Cleaning up the clay on my hands, I wondered how it would feel to see Nat again.
The night felt like a replay of a midsummer’s eve, we felt warm and comfortable in our own skin. We sat across each other in the front porch, cross legged, facing each other. I lit a candle and placed it in between us, forming an invisible line, like the net in a tennis court. Drinking wine, talking about everything and nothing, the stranger in front of me didn’t feel strange at all.
Nat started to remove the objects in between us. I felt the invisible line dissolve into darkness. As we inched closer to each other in synchronicity, the pages of history burned away in slow fire; there was nothing to look back at. It did not matter whether there was a “Tomorrow”. The concept of the future turned into ashes, as it caught fire from the past. The only thing that felt real was the sensation of our lips on each other’s; the very present moment.
7:30 am: the clock informed me of the arrival of tomorrow. Off I went about my routine, not knowing that everything was about to change.
I arrived at my pottery school, glazed a few pieces of my work in spontaneity, spraying and painting various glazes I have never attempted before. I made a cup for Nat, recalling how we talked about our preferences of cups without handles, of how pleasant it feels to hold a handmade mug in our hands.
23rd of March 2020. Monday came, with news of the closure of non-essential venues. I received a phone call in the morning, being informed that my sublet plans have fallen through. Sitting with all the universal shifts, my inner world crumbled along with the external world. I did not know what to do, nor where to go with my living situation.
“You can stay with me. Whether it’s temporary or permanent, you don’t have to decide now. You are safe here.”
Nat’s unconditional offer came up unexpectedly. I did not know what to make sense of anymore, amidst all my chaos. But I felt the weight of sincerity as they spoke.
“Are you aware that we might be stuck together for the next 6 months? Are you ready for that?”
“Yes, I know. I am ready. Can we promise each other that we will keep talking, no matter how things may become as time goes by?”
“I promise. If you get sick, I will look after you.”
“I will too.”
On the same day, we went back to my old house and took everything we could, leaving all my furniture behind. There was no time to waste. We did not know what tomorrow could bring, with the daily changes with restrictions. But we knew we would have each other at the very least.
And so a new life began, in 6 days. Living in a neighbourhood I have never been to, with a person I barely knew. Yet I felt I could trust Nat; it seemed to me that I’ve known her better than anyone I’ve met. We dived together, deep into the unknown, in good faith and willingness to hold each other through it all.
We made a list of things we would like to do, and places we would like to go to when restrictions start to ease up again. It was our way of showing each other our physical worlds, an attempt to include each other in our lives together. We wrote it out excitedly, and stuck the list on our bedroom wall. On and off I would look at it, and be reminded of a distant past and possible future.
Sometimes there is friction; after all, we are two individuals who have had established our own living habits for over 30 years in our lives. Nothing is perfect, we can’t expect everything to fit magically in the equation; two isn’t always made of one plus one. A relationship can’t be measured in numbers; it is not mathematics. We have to be willing to communicate, and meet each other in the middle.
Riding my bicycle in the new neighbourhood, I stopped under a highway and listened to the sounds of traffic; The sound of cars passing through echoed in a distance. “Stop for a moment and listen to this” Nat said, when they had brought me here once. Standing below, I felt I was listening to the sounds of the future above me. Instinctively, I reached out for my helmet to tighten it around my chin, knowing for the first time there was someone to come home to. And that my life has an importance and impact on someone else’s. I must not put myself in any form of danger.
As we are both musicians, all our gigs and projects for the next 6 months have been cancelled indefinitely. So were any travel plans. Sometimes I look at the current version of my reality in despair, and I wonder what's next. I feel hopeless - uncertain if I will be able to go back to pottery school, the biggest part of my life. And not being able to leave winter behind, to chase the sun in warmer pastures up North. My entire lifestyle has changed. One of my biggest pleasures in life, listening to music in a live venue, going to a festival, may have become a historical account.
But when I look at Nat, I know it is possible; to adapt, to transform our reality, in our own bodies and as two in a relationship. To reinvent life, and build a future together starting from a blank canvas. Just as tree roots grow and reach out for each other underneath the Earth, supporting each other in all conditions.
Tomorrow by Luc Yong is created for Shelter 2020.