"Lockdown" by Leonard Henry Scott

Updated: Jun 30, 2020


Three days of lockdown, nothing to do, no one to talk to. I sleep. I eat peanut butter sandwiches until I’m out of bread. I watch TV, most recently alternating between the Simpsons and the cable news wars. I watch the Home Shopping Network and a curling match on ESPN. I debate whether or not curling is an actual sport. Perhaps it’s like bowling without the excitement. I debate for forty minutes. Here, time has no meaning. I am isolated and alone. The more I stay here, the more I do not want to leave.

It is wonderful.

I peek through the blinds to see if the world is still going on. People are talking and walking around. It is amazing how effortlessly they move and flow; how easily they converse with one another and blend so naturally into the moving streetscape. I wonder if I can do that. I don’t know. The world outside is very unsettling, not like here where everything is orderly and peaceful. Outside, everyone must walk the same and talk the same and be exactly that same certain same way that does not cause suspicion or concern, because everyone is always evaluating everyone else all the time. Failure to adhere could bring consequences.

People ask trick questions. I could easily be asked a trick question and of course (naturally) I would not know the answer, because it would be a trick question. Some of the people outside are just that devious. Best case; hails of ridiculing scorn and laughter could follow me home, echoing again and again in my head.

Semi worst case to worst case (e.g.): I could be profiled just for being who I am. I could be arrested for something, not walking straight enough, or talking to myself perhaps. Although now, cell phones make it more difficult to spot who’s crazy. I could be or robbed or killed in some way, shot by a sniper, run over by a truck, crushed by a tree or a falling piano. It’s not just in movies. I’ll bet there’s data to support this. I read about a guy a couple of years ago. He was jogging on a beach and a small plane came down behind him, making an emergency landing. His head was cut off by the plane's propellers. He had no idea. He was wearing headphones. The outside is a different place, a withering gauntlet of constant danger and uncertainty.

Surreptitiously, I watch the people on the sidewalk from my third-floor window and hope they do not see me.

I have to go to the supermarket. I don’t want to, but I have to. I am out of bread. I am also out of Doritos and other staples, like Cheez-Its and Frosted Flakes. I make a list. I put potato chips on the list and also pork skins. I love pork skins and I wonder how they get them, to be so puffy, probably some sort of machine. We have machines that can do anything. The world is an amazing place.

After some preparation (pep talks mostly) and three false starts to the front door, I find myself all of a sudden walking briskly along the sidewalk staring down at my shoes (blue tops white bottoms) while trying to keep my balance in the unsettling swim of rampant daylight and unwanted adventure. I increase my speed, walking steadily faster until I reach the pace of almost running. I just want this to be over.

I enter the supermarket.

I grab a cart, the size of two hand baskets on wheels, and begin to tread purposefully through wide airy, fluorescent washed aisles of competing aromas, and enticingly labeled cans and packages so colorfully attractive that I want to buy everything.

Eyes planted on my list, I mumble ‘excuse me’s, avoiding all possible contact with other shoppers; sometimes choosing to take the long way around or coming back later to avoid uncomfortably fumbling passed the blocking cart of another customer. But throughout it all I keep my focus, walking with careful caution, trying not to draw attention to myself, clumsily pretending to be just another one of them. I pause to cross pork skins off my list. Potato chips are healthier.

After ten or fifteen minutes of endless time, I am exhausted. Time stops in the supermarket. My legs tremble and my heart races around bumping into the walls of my chest. But thankfully, my list is finished and soon it will be over.

I head for the self-service checkout lane.

But wait! There is a sign on a yellow chain at the common self-service entrance. “Closed”, it says. I don’t know why.

It’s just closed.

I stand there for a long disquieting moment. I am distressed. I look around, hoping that someone will come and remove the sign. But nobody comes and the entire self-service checkout lane remains steadfastly closed for some unrevealed reason. Its ten odd registers are silently unlit. They are still and stark as tombstones.

I am devastated.

Yet, as it always is in the case of all human tragedy and disappointment, grief must be reconciled so that life can move on. And so I ultimately make my peace with this circumstance and start to look for a cashier. I don’t want to deal with a cashier. I’d have to talk to the cashier and maybe smile. I don’t feel like smiling. I don’t feel like talking. But I must soldier on.

Halfway down the checkout lanes, I see her. There is no one in her lane and so she waits by her register just for me, one hand on her hip, staring into the middle distance at something engrossing in the store. Perhaps she is trying to count the cans in the five-foot kernel corn mountain at the end of aisle seven. She comes to life suddenly as I put my two cloth shopping bags on her conveyor belt.