The familiar growling of the car engine as it dies is instantly comforting. In a frenzy, I throw open the apartment door, flinging myself into the arms of my father. Bags and overflowing groceries fall around us on the ground, but for a few seconds, the mess doesn’t matter. I feel small and safe again. My dad is here, a hundred miles from home.
It’s well after midnight, and yet here he is waiting outside Trinity Hall to drive me back home to Monaghan in the wee hours of the morning. There, as implored by College and our government, I shall spend the next two weeks in quarantine in the wake of the coronavirus.
You might wonder why I didn’t do the normal thing and just get a public bus home like everyone else. The short answer is that I didn’t have a choice. Because my mother cares too much. “Don’t move!”, she had instructed me earlier when I called home. “Your dad and I will drive up for you later on.”
Of course, what might seem like unnecessary anxiety on her behalf is justified – having spent a lot of time in and out of hospital over the last few years, with a volatile immune system, I am a ticking time bomb for the Big C. I’m the prime suspect for self-isolation. But to my mam, all that matters is that I am home safe, that I have enough food and that I am minding myself. This is love in its purest form – watching my parents go to any length to ensure the safety and happiness of their daughter in the middle of a global pandemic.
I was once told that the greatest friendships are formed in the face of adversity, and truer words have never been uttered
Although most of the time it seems as though we live in an increasingly polarised and disillusioned world, it’s not all bad. Because during the last week, I have never felt more loved and connected to those around me. It’s during crises like now that we realise how interconnected we really are to our loved ones – and that, despite all odds, human kindness will always prevail.
My family coming to my rescue is merely just one example. I was once told that the greatest friendships are formed in the face of adversity, and honestly, truer words have never been uttered. Over the last week, despite my impending deadlines, I have barely put pen to paper – my phone is hopping. Old and new faces slide into my inbox, sending memes, checking in to see if I’m ok, if I want to do a FaceTime next week to catch up. Each one brings a slightly goofier smile to my face.
In College, students seem to have come to the realisation that we must rely on each other. In my course group chat, I was delighted to see so many of my brilliant friends offering notes for those who missed class. “United we stand and all that”, one of them joked, as they created a Google Drive and shared us all into everything we needed to get by for the rest of the semester.
In the throes of last week’s panic – before we were being urged to stay home – I ushered in the eve of the so-called “apocalypse” in the calmest possible way: after a soothing coffee with my best friend, we spontaneously edged our way into the National Gallery an hour before closing time. The hallways were eerily abandoned and dimly lit as we perused our way around the Renaissance pieces, whispering about Carrivagio and T S Eliot poetry. I had never felt more serene, gliding through such beauty with one of the most cherished people in my life.
In College, students seem to have come to the realisation that we must rely on each other
It was a fitting place to say goodbye to them, because we didn’t know when we’d see each other again. Museums preserve a lot of things – let’s hope memories are one of them.
Don’t underestimate people’s ability to empathise. I’ve seen a lot of random acts of kindness over the last few days. Seeing local GAA clubs deliver groceries and hearing stories of people volunteering to walk strangers’ dogs has helped quell the pessimism. We need to keep this good will momentum going, and to continue to watch out for each other. Be kind, be selfless and don’t forget to keep texting your friends.
It’s late and I’m in the back of the car, somewhere past Drogheda. The late-night news drifts through the radio, and my blood runs cold, expecting the worst. But my father turns down the dial. Instead, my parents and I talk about our cats. I show them my newly developed photographs from Erasmus. We talk about Sinn Féin, College assessments, anything else. And we laugh – all the way back home.
It can all wait until tomorrow.