Love in the Time of COVID-19 – by Rachel Hogg



I guess lockdown was quite… fortuitous, really. Firstly, I had been needing a holiday from work in forever, and secondly, Matt moved in. His flatmate is a nurse. He didn’t want to take any risks.

Matt came to mine after work, wearing a shirt and tie, and that scent which always transports me straight to chilled-out nights and too much wine. Smart. Executive. Sexy as hell. Armed with a laptop bag and his suitcase. Who knows how long he’ll be here?

He could stay here forever, as far as I’m concerned. We’ve only been dating a couple of months, but this just feels… right. The world outside might crash and burn, but we’re safe here, in our blissful bubble. We have dinner, a bottle of wine, and sex. Twice. After, he jokes that we should make sure to wash our hands properly. We stand in the bathroom, up to our elbows in suds, and sing Happy Birthday to each other.

Lockdown ain’t so bad.


Matt makes me breakfast. Toast and jam, and coffee. He laughs at my unpreparedness for the end of days. Tells me he’ll buy something more substantial once we’ve established whether we can visit a supermarket. And better coffee. He needs better coffee.

He sets up his laptop on the table in my living room. I curl up on the sofa and try not to disturb him, this version of him that I’ve never been privy to before. Organised. Efficient. In control. Strong fingers typing strongly-worded emails. The cute way he taps his teeth with the end of his pen whenever he’s thinking. I’m no help with equations. I offer to refill the coffee pot.

I flick through a long-forgotten recipe book, and find something delicious to cook for tea. Something that doesn’t require pasta. I relish my new role as home-maker.

In the evening, we decorate a rainbow and Blu-Tack it onto the front window. He tells me he’s never fancied me more.


Our first week in lockdown, complete. We order takeaway, and he suggest cracking open a bottle of fizz. He doesn’t normally drink during the week, but this feels like a reason to celebrate. We’ve survived our first seven days.

We snuggle together on the sofa. Candles lit. His fingers gently twisting a length of my hair. Will this be us forever? Right now, there is nothing I want more. I try and commit every element to memory. These are the important moments that long-married couples recall in later years. The moment they ‘knew’.

DAY 13

Our days have become predictable. Comfortable. His alarm wakes me at 7am. By the time I come downstairs, he’s already sitting at the table, working. ‘His Office’, as he insists on calling it. I make my breakfast, and another coffee for him. His pen tap, tap, taps his teeth.

I tidy up. Wash the breakfast bowls. Wipe up the rings of coffee from the worktops. Pick up yesterday’s discarded socks from the bedroom floor. Put a wash on.

I hear him in the bathroom: Happy birthday to you… I stopped serenading him – when? A day ago? A week?

Couch to 5K. My new venture. Out of the house and into the warm spring air. Jogging down unusually quiet streets. Past pavement galleries, windows filled with colour and hope. Giving those I do meet a wide berth and a wider smile. We’re in this together. Alone, yet together.

At 8pm, we clap. The whole street, armed with pots and pans. A few moments of camaraderie, before we retreat back into our protective burrows.

We head upstairs. We have sex. Tomorrow will be more of the same.

DAY 24

Normal. What is ‘normal’ these days?

It’s being woken at 7am. Tip-toeing round his spreadsheets and conference calls. Coffee. Another coffee. I’m not your fucking PA.

Tap, tap, tap.

An hour’s jog round the park. Avoiding the dog shit. Avoiding the rest of humankind. I don’t like running, and there are no 5K’s to take part in. Thank fuck.

There’s no escape. A month ago, I would have gone to my sister’s. Let off steam. Come home with a strengthened moral high-ground. But family relationships have been reduced to a three inch thumbnail on a computer screen. Snatched sisterly phone calls between home-schooled lessons.

Happy Birthday to you. Happy Birthday to you. I can hear him humming it in the bathroom. Wanker.

DAY 30

I go to the supermarket. My weekly salvation. Tesco – the place I come to relax. My living room has become Canary Wharf. International deals being brokered at the bottom of a cul-de-sac.

Bread, loo roll, still no pasta. Wine. Red, white and rosé. Hob-Nobs, Dairy Milk, trashy mag and Pringles. I yearn for the day I can slob out in front of daytime TV and just get fat. Isn’t that what the rest of the redundant workforce are doing?

Coffee! Don’t forget the fucking coffee.

I’m an unwelcome guest in my own home. Hiding away in the kitchen. Making myself scarce. Washing, tidying, keeping house. Cleaning his shaving foam off the bathroom mirror for the umpteenth time this week.

The bathroom mirror. Behind which is stored all number of magic pills. None of which will cure COVID-19.

“Do you want another coffee?”

DAY 36

He’s sick. I spoke to some medical person on the phone. They said he should isolate for at least 7 days. He’s in the bedroom. I’m on the sofa. Homes Under the Hammer and a packet of Hob-Nobs.

11am. I imagine he’ll want another coffee soon. He says it’s all he can keep down. I boil the kettle in readiness.

I’ve cleared his laptop off my table. Shoved the avalanche of paperwork into his bag. My home. My space. I open Google:

How long will this take…?

DAY 40


It’s liberating. No phone calls. No Happy Birthday. No tap, tap, tap. His mobile stopped buzzing a couple of days ago. I think the battery’s finally dead.

I’ll ring a doctor. Soon. At some point. I don’t know what you do in these situations.

I pour a glass of wine. Delete my browser history.

I guess they’ll assume it was coronavirus? Like I said, lockdown was fortuitous.

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