When lockdown began, I took up running. Regular runners may remember those first few agonising jaunts – where the background noise of the world disappears and the only sound is your heaving breath, the only sensation your aching feet (and bruised pride, at being outpaced round the ponds by an unleashed sausage dog).
Perhaps that’s why on my third, stitch-filled run, I didn’t know what time it was when I found myself on the home stretch. I didn’t know why, as I huffed up the road, people were in their front gardens clapping, their faces alight. The penny dropped: it was a Thursday. It must have turned 8pm. We were clapping for the NHS. And as I stopped to join the applause of people actually worthy of it, I chuckled about my brief thought that somehow they might be clapping for me.
I keep dreaming about this. Sometimes the cheering becomes jeering, sometimes I recognise the faces. Like many in lockdown, I have noticed an uptick in vivid dreams, despite having always had them. My favourite ones are comic: I dreamed that instead of breasts sagging with age, they floated upward, wreaking havoc with people’s eyelines. My worst dreams dredge up unresolved moments, like seeing the faces of friends I’ve lost touch with. (I’ve long believed friend endings are the worst because they’re unnecessary. Unlike romantic partners, where you can only have one, it’s fine to have multiple friends with some in “friend storage”. So to be Marie Kondo’d out of a life feels severe.)
But this dream is my first recurring one for many years. Will I still have it when lockdown ends, I wonder? Perhaps I’ll find out soon: I write this under eased measures. But a resolution that satisfies the subconscious mind? I feel instinctively that is farther away; too many shocks endured, too many unanswered questions. Either way, I know I’ll be running – round the ponds in the day, or for my cheering neighbours at night.