His alarm goes off. This can’t be right, he thinks, as he glares at the darkness outside. The chill has sheathed his window in a forbidding white frost. The sun hasn’t even bothered to make an appearance and yet the boss has decreed he must! How did he ever do this, 5 days a week, EVERY week?! Why are pants obligatory?! How does one wash one’s hair? Why must his exercise extend from simple walks between the fridge and the couch?

Gone are the somewhat amusing days of enforced Netflix binges, sourdough-making, questionable drinking habits and occasional working. Throwing himself into the shower, he curiously examines the hairs he forgot he must pluck and trim into submission. He rummages through the laundry basket, searching for the least offensive-smelling thing. Black blazer? Bingo! Hastily attempting to brush crusted 3-day-old Bolognese from the sleeve, without much success, he decides to stop questioning why food ends up where it does anymore.

Slurping down yesterday’s leftover coffee, he drags himself to the tram stop. Man, it’s cold! he thinks. Has it always been this cold? Did the walk to the tram stop always take 9 minutes? Seems excessive. I could have been to the fridge and back 3 times by now! He boards with caution. The vibe is tense. Some cling to their gloves and masks with unyielding fervor, 1.5m-marked tape measures in hand. Others lounge and touch their faces and press buttons with reckless abandon.

He arrives at the office, where the painfully cheery receptionist greets him with more pizazz than he can handle right now. She mentions something about ‘Casual Monday, hey?’. He looks down. Bugger! Pyjama pants (printed with pictures of his dog of course) and bear-foot slippers; he knew he forgot something! At least his dog is dapper as hell. Dumping his things down on one of the Flexi desks, he attempts to sit in his fancy ergonomic seat, only to crumple to the floor. Seems months of lounging around on the couch have impeded his ability to use a chair. Hmm. Wait, you know this, he says to himself, just try to remember. Something about bending the knees? Ah, there we are! Someone is talking softly on the opposite side of the office floor; it’s infuriating. He pines for the sound of his cats demanding their 3rd breakfast and parkour-ing around the apartment; how can he possibly concentrate without them?

A well-meaning co-worker approaches for some casual small talk; he rapidly blathers about Tiger King and how long his personalised Thigh Master 3000 is taking to arrive. Confused co-worker leaves without a word. Human interaction is more difficult than expected. He opens his laptop for his weekly Zoom meeting; it takes a surprising amount of effort to break the keyboard-to-screen adhesive of red wine spills & old pizza crumbs. His colleague says, ‘Hi hello I’m right opposite you, you don’t need to use Zoom we can just talk in person’. Staring menacingly at the screen while stroking his impressive Covid beard, he glares at his insistent colleague who is waffling on about all sorts of numbers and KPI’s that pillage his mushy sleepy brain. This meeting is definitely something he could have been half-watching while catching up on the latest murder docuseries from the couch. He just wants to know if Carole Baskin did it or not! Casually he bashes the mute button, but this is ineffective. Pesky colleague shoots him a look from across the desk.  Surely there’s some sort of technology to bring muting to the workplace. Or at the very least a funky background like a pug in space or a tranquil beach in the Maldives? The ability to leave the country; weren’t those the golden days.

It slips into the afternoon. He has already missed two naptimes and is not happy that he is getting far too much work done – the bar was satisfyingly lower at home. Apparently snack time has been banished for the health and safety of the members – but who’s looking out for the health and safety of his 3pm grumblies? Usually he’d be working on his Covid procrastination project by now, attempting to turn his cats into dogs, but it’s taking a lot more work than expected. All he wants is for them to walk placidly in a harness and fetch the newspaper and maybe a can of VB when so instructed. They hate him for it but at least the aggressive hissing keeps other walkers 1.5m away!

The sun leaves before he does, and now again he must embark on his bothersome commute home. Finally, he plods down his cul-de-sac, the front porch light a beacon of squalid comfort and lazy times so thoroughly enjoyed in the recent months. He opens the door and is greeted not by the luxury he remembers but a house in shambles; coffee cups piled in a mouldy steeple, cat hair on the roof, half-drunk wine bottles in the bathroom and Netflix asking if he is still there. Maybe home wasn’t all he remembered it to be? Sure, his crochet and beer homebrewing skills have never been better but having a shower and talking to actual humans in the flesh can be nice sometimes too. The receptionist was certainly happy to see him! Thank goodness lockdown restrictions are easing at last. Looks like returning to life as we used to know it might just be in sight.

26 minutes later: Actually, scratch that. 6 weeks more of stage 3 lockdown. Showering and socialising have nothing on 6 weeks in bed re-watching ‘You’. The self-indulgence continues.