Outside Looking In
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We are isolated. Stuck in the house. I know I’m supposed to say safe in the house, and, I guess, I feel safe. But what I really want is to be back to my normal routine. One that includes cleaning ladies, quiet, shopping, and coffee shops. In the absence of that, I am forced to look out my window and daydream. You could call it using your imagination, or being creative, even maybe astute observation. I call it daydreaming because there is an elemental dream quality to the lives I have created for my neighbours, whom I’ve never met.
I know they have children, our neighbours to the east. The squeals of said offspring can be heard above the din of isolation and the occasional passing vehicle containing what I suspect to be humans. I hear also what appears to be the sound of an outdoor vacuum accompanying the squeals. I have concluded it is an Amazon-sourced bouncy castle. Brilliant. Keep those youngsters trapped in an inflatable cage for as long as you can while you get some much needed alone time. Isolation is nothing like alone time. Both might feel alone, but there is always a family member lurking outside of your space during isolation. Alone time, based on the words alone, requires being alone. No lurking allowed.
This brings to mind the bouncy castles of my past. Yes, plural. We hired bouncy castles on two occasions. One, for a birthday party for our daughter who was turning 5. That incident ended in our son biting our daughter’s best friend. He really didn’t want to wait his turn and, although not chubby, this particular friend was big-boned at the time and might have looked delicious to a 3-year-old. The second was for a charity event we hosted in the yard. It was never inflated because it was enormous and would have left no room for people.
But the bouncy castle that is indelibly etched was clothing optional and not as much fun as you might think. I was invited to bring our children to a friend’s house for a summer day as she was having a free-for-all kid party. It was a typical Toronto summer day with relative humidity so high, you could taste the air and it tasted like hot sports equipment. We arrived and the party was in full swing. Not swinger, swing. My kids raced to the castle and I circulated with the adults who had found the one postage stamp area of shade afforded by the poplar tree, making it very popular indeed. The kids were gone no more than 90 seconds when they both returned to share my shade.
“What’s up? Too hot?” I asked in a squeaky high pitched voice reserved for children disturbing their mother while she is trying not to be disturbed.
“Thirsty? Gotta pee? Hurt? You have to help me here,” I continued.
“Everyone is…” and they looked at each other. I finished their sentence many ways in my head. “Pushing” “Chasing” “Charging” what I didn’t expect them to say was, “naked.”
“Naked?” I said a little too loudly. “Why is everyone naked?”
“Oh,” said our hostess. “It’s too hot for clothes. Take yours off and jump in.”
I’m not sure time actually stood still, but it certainly didn’t speed up. The three of us furrowed our brows in unison, and stopped breathing, hoping this bizarre turn of events would somehow be reversed if we refrained from using air.
“Sorry. Why again are they naked?” I stupidly asked.
“Because it’s too hot.”
“Is there a sprinkler or something on in there?”
“No. That wouldn’t be safe.” She didn’t add ‘stupid’ but it was implied by her screwed up face and the way she bobbled her head like she was shaking sense into me from her side of the tree.
“Cool. Cool.” Which is what I was trying to be without feeling it. “Kids, you don’t have to take off your clothes, you know,” I whispered it so the other parents wouldn’t judge me for my ridiculous notion that my children should remain clothed at a party with people they didn’t know or share a gender with while they writhed around on rubber. Let them experience that in their 20s.
My children walked away sheepishly and I thought they might venture in. I didn’t hear a word the mothers were saying because I was so flummoxed that my brain was working overtime to process the information I had just digested as I stared straight ahead in a fog. Also, I think I am an asshole for sending my kids back into an orgy. That is when I felt a little sweaty hand on mine. I turned and was thankful that, a) it was the hand of our daughter, b) she still had her clothes on, and c) her fully clothed brother was with her too.
Without saying a word, I knew we had to leave. No one should be comfortable being stuck in a bouncy castle teeming with sweaty naked children with questionable bathroom hygiene. How I longed for isolation that day. We found it in our house, with all our clothes on beside the air conditioner and a tall glass of lemonade that we drank lost in our own thoughts.