Day Fourteen, And Some More To Come
A Malaysian in Los Angeles During the Covid-19 Global Pandemic
Friday, 25 March 2020 (Pacific Standard Time)
This is probably the earliest I’ve awoken since we arrived in the City of Angels two weeks ago. Reaching for my phone, I fall into the less-than-ideal routine of checking in on family in Kuala Lumpur on chat groups and the latest news.
Confirmed cases are on the rise (at just over 2000 now), but with the MCO in place in Malaysia and the fantastic frontliners, this will help with detection and isolation, keeping the rest of the community at large, safe. About 259 individuals have recovered and been discharged. At least, that’s the plan.
I think about our cancelled flight home in April, and what we were going to do. How do we plan to leave LA? When do we do that? Will it be safe? I tell myself to stop thinking about questions I don’t have answers to.
Thank God for heated toilet seats.
Alone time in the bathroom is almost like a form of meditation on its own. The mind settles quietly, as the eyes gaze at a suddenly, rather unusually interesting spot on the bathroom floor.
I step off the carpet on to the chilled floor, standing in front of the mirror. This weather is really messing up my skin. I examine my face, trying to determine if I had aged in two weeks. There are definitely more strands of grey hair. Should have just gone for that hair appointment before we left, I chide myself.
My body is dehydrated, even with the amount of water I drink a day. And it’s cold, damnit, I mutter to myself while silently throwing invisible daggers at a husband who’s still fast asleep – he told me California is always sunny. I’m just a tropical girl at heart, terribly missing being able to sit around in my shorts and tees.
I also miss that occasional cup of teh tarik and roti canai banjir for breakfast, but I’m not complaining. We are safe and we have a roof over our heads right now.
A deep sigh follows, as I reach for my toothbrush, rolling up the sweater sleeve. I make a mental note to try to leave behind as many toiletries as possible, or better still – make sure they’re used up so we don’t have to store things unnecessarily.
I think about the economy, and if we will be okay. We will. We all will.
I attempt to start journaling my thoughts, but my husband is snoring. A lot. Another loud sigh escapes my throat. Maybe I’ll just have my breakfast now. I think my in-laws will be pleasantly surprised to see their daughter-in-law up this early in days. It’s the jet lag, I tell myself. Is it, though? Perhaps it’s also the remote working at odd hours here, as I try to overlap with KL timing. Or maybe I’m just trying to drown out the world.
There’s a teensy amount of community-induced pressure and guilt somewhere, when I have flashes of thoughts on how good Indian girls/wives ‘should’ behave. Oops. Sri Lankan, not Indian.
Really, does it matter?
I forgot to mention I am more Indian than Sri Lankan, thanks to my very Malaysian upbringing. I am Malaysian, after all. Even my Tamil is devoid of that classic Sri Lankan accent. More of this on another day.
The temporary guilt zaps out of my running thoughts as fast as they arrive, when I remind myself that my self worth is not tied to my ability to cook or excel at domestic science. For the record, I can cook. Pretty well, actually.
I conclude that I’ve successfully managed to acquire quite a delightful reputation here fairly quickly.
I get a warm welcome downstairs from Nandi, my husband’s dog. The television is on as I prepare my breakfast, bombarding the senses yet again with a barrage of Covid-19 information, the obvious lack in this country’s ability to contain and manage this pandemic so far, and continued reinforcement on how the United States of America is now the world’s epicentre of this unprecedented global pandemic. Well done, America. Well done.
I read something funny on Instagram, and laugh. I ask the husband (who has finally emerged from slumber) to turn the study into a makeshift exercise room so that we can stretch, work out and just move the body everyday from indoors.
I come back to my ‘office’, determined to ensure I finish two things today – this journal entry and another one on Earth Hour for Illuminairre’s blog. I think about family in KL again, and scribble ‘Call Amma and Papa today, and Periamma’ on my to-do list. I add my sister’s name next to Amma and Papa. And then the list gets longer.
Suddenly, the thoughts fizzle and I just stare out the window. Sunlight is streaming in from a bright blue, clear sky. The iconic palm trees of California can be seen everywhere from this little window space. I hear the chimes in my in-laws’ garden gently dancing in the sea breeze, and there is a symphony of birdsongs going on. I am convinced that a new bird species has just joined the daily songstresses I usually listen to. The rest of the neighbourhood is silent. It’s a beautiful silence.
I decide to listen to a sound healing bath on YouTube, and ironically (or coincidentally) click on a link from someone based in Los Angeles. It is helping, as the sound bath plays to a gentle soundtrack of waves rolling into some shoreline. My eyes close as I allow the singing bowls to still my mind.
I open my eyes, visibly calmer and settled. The sky is still a brilliant blue, and the sun is still shining. A deep sense of peace washes over me, as these words appear, both in my mind and heart: