Facebook threw up some pictures from last year on my feed today. I stared at them for a while and then scrolled on down. They were a montage of memories from Berlin, taken this time last year. I had flown out to meet a woman I had met only months earlier and who had, bit by bit, stolen my heart. The long weekend we spent together contained moments so special that even now they take my breath away.
Looking at the images, it was difficult to believe that it was only a year ago. There were pictures of Art Deco stations, murals on walls, tables full of scrumptious food. Happy faces. However, the pandemic has made this year seem like three. Twelve months ago seems a distant memory. I no longer seem to be able to connect to the person I was then, the happiness that I felt, all the hopes for the future. COVID-19 has, bit by bit, chipped away at my soul until there feels sometimes as if there is nothing left.
I last saw my girlfriend in February. We knew then that the virus was spreading, but neither of us knew what impact it would have on our lives. She became becalmed at home, working long hours to meet deadlines. I was forced to work from home as well, but didn’t share her health concerns, so was able to venture out. Eventually I was able to go back to work on site even. I counted my blessings. I have a job and I stayed safe. Technology kept us in contact, supporting each other.
However, as the weeks continued to creep by, it became clear that the virus wasn’t passing through. There would be no quick return to normality. Indeed, perhaps it would never return. I had flights booked to Berlin, but moved them back, and back again. There was one set of flights I clung onto though, even though deep down I knew it was futile. I had seats on a plane for the August Bank Holiday. When I felt low I would go and look at them. I told myself to keep the faith, that after all these months, on our anniversary, I would be in Berlin again.
It wasn’t to be of course. The air bridge was established in time, and the borders opened. But Germany remains on high alert. I could get in, I could even be in the same room as my love, but I can’t hold or kiss her, I can’t even touch her. Touch, that simplest and most vital of loving acts, denied. I circled the problem time and time again, raging at the injustice. My love looked on compassionately, and didn’t try to dissuade me, although she knew it was fruitless. I love her for that. Finally the airline took pity, and cancelled my flights. I cried until I ran out of tears.
Inevitably, somewhere along the way the black claws of depression and anxiety have gripped me again, eager to reclaim territory. Bit by bit, I have lost interest in doing much. My world has shrunk and I have let it. I am lucky, I have the best professional help, and good family. But they can’t give me that answer I need. When will I be able to touch her again?
I have flights booked for October. November seems quite likely. Hope is keeping me afloat. Love will beat this virus eventually.