Do you remember the last time you cancelled plans for a night out? Or the last time someone invited you to a party and your kneejerk reaction was to sigh and lament how far you’d have to drag yourself out of town? Remember the last time a friend was in your area and invited you out for coffee, and you fumbled in your brain for an excuse because you were tired and hungover?
Right now, as we’re being told to avoid contact and remain the fuck indoors, I’m regretting all the plans I cancelled. All the nights out I missed and gigs I couldn’t be bothered with. Looking out of my window at the sun, I cannot fathom how I’d ever have said ‘no’ to an afternoon picnic with friends in Hyde Park, a hike in the country, or a quick pint in a pub garden at sunset.
When all this is over I will say so much ‘yes.’
I’ll say ‘yes’ so often that my lips will form the shape of it even before I’ve heard the question. I will go to bars and picnics and museum trips and Alton Towers. I’ll go to gigs in West London that are two tube changes and a bus ride away, and I won’t even complain if I don’t get a seat.
It’s easy, right now, to beat oneself up for all the opportunities missed in the Before Times. But we probably shouldn’t do that. We didn’t know – we couldn’t know – that we would lose those opportunities, and it’s really hard to understand the true value of something that you don’t think you will ever lose. Instead, I’m trying to focus on how much more I will do in the times that come after. How much more fully I’ll embrace even the most arduous of journeys, the most tedious open-mic nights, the dampest squibs of parties.
When the world shuts down, we’ll all have regrets. But I’m trying not to think about regrets, instead imagining all the plans I will make when we’re suddenly allowed to make plans again.
Imagine the pub outings and day trips, the parties and barbecues and Christmases spent hugging – touching – the people we love. Picture the first catch-up-over-coffee that you’ll have when the cafés are open. The gifts you’ll give nephews and nieces and parents and grandparents, which you’ve lovingly (and badly) crafted during quarantine.
This time, right now, is death to packed lunches forever. When we are finally allowed back out to play, I’ll eat in busy cafés and pubs, spending money I don’t have on treats with which to stuff my face, in the company of people I can sit right next to. No more homemade sandwiches eaten from soggy clingfilm: I’ll eat fresh scones with clotted cream and jam, and I’ll tip the fuck out of whoever brings them to me. I will fulfil my bucket list dream of saying ‘this round’s on me’, out loud to an entire pub. I’ll hug those people who give ‘free hugs’ at festivals when they’re off their fucking tits on LSD. I might try LSD.
It’s easy to regret what we didn’t do before the world shut down. But instead, let’s imagine the fun we’ll have when the world starts back up again. The fuckfest that’ll happen when the dam of loneliness and isolation breaks, and people pour from their homes and into the arms of lovers, ready to make the very most of every single minute.
Personally I’m pondering all those threesome invites I never extended. You know, in the Before Times, when concerns like ‘will they fancy us?’ and ‘isn’t it a long way to travel?’ seemed like genuine, tangible concerns. I cannot imagine being frightened of rejection, in the After Times: I will only be too delighted to hear a ‘no’, because the very act of having asked the question will feel like a genuine miracle. I will go to sex parties: the ones I was intimidated by before. The ones which made me nervous about my body or my jealousy or my inability to dress up. I will finally haul my arse to fucking Rio’s, goddammit.
When all this is over, we’ll have so much fun. And when I started writing this, the point was to give myself something to look forward to: all the plans and games and fun and sex I’ll have when we’re finally allowed out to play again. To comfort me, and maybe you, with the knowledge that life won’t always be this way.
But there’s something even more comforting than the plans we will actually make: the plans we’ll cancel.
When the burst of joy is over, and we’re free and clear of danger, eventually we will cancel plans again. We’ll fumble in our brains for excuses not to have coffee, and sigh because that party’s so far away. We’ll decide to ditch gig tickets, sneak home early from the pub, and tell our friends we’re sick for no better reason than that we can’t be arsed. We’ll eventually have gorged on so much fun that recovery is necessary once more, and we’ll slot our bums back into the well-worn dip that we’ve put there during quarantine, text ‘sorry I’m busy’ to the people we really love, and fire up a box set on Netflix.
Someday, one day, we will cancel plans again.