4 June, Mount Lavinia, Sri Lanka

By Ruwanthi Wijesinghe

Out of all the negative effects of this lockdown era, for me insomnia has been the worst.  I thought it was just me, but now I find to my horror that my son has been affected even more. 

I wake up around 2:30 am, a reaction to the unbearable heat.  I’m greeted by a house ‘up in lights’.  Where has this child gone?   I look and there he is all snuggled up reading a book!

The mother in me yells (quietly, considering the time and the effect on my neighbours). “Go and sleep immediately!  You are a growing boy. You need to sleep.”  There, I burst his bubble and ruined the comfortable space he had created for himself.  Realisation dawned a bit too late.

I return to my slides, trying to find ways of holding my students’ in their new virtual environment.  If they get bored, all they need to do is press a button and they’re out of my class, and I wouldn’t even know it. So much has changed. I sit in my chair which seems to have grown into me, intent.

Has the world gone mad?  Isn’t that party music?

“EDM”, he says.

 He is stretched out on a mat in the middle of the bedroom. 

“Amma, I was just doing some sit-ups!” The time is 3.30am.  

 I try not to laugh.

“I did try Amma, I just can’t fall asleep these days.”

Was it I who said: “Would you like some Nestomalt?

His eyes light up (while probably wondering why he wasn’t getting a whole speech). “Yes please!”

What is wrong with me? 

So, I go down and get busy making Nestomalt for my 15 year-old son. From the looks of the kitchen, he’s already been here tonight. Suddenly, I begin to feel proud of him.  Two nights ago he was up painting Captain America’s shield.  He was being innovative.  Finding ways to cope, refusing to let all this break him.  I’m not sure how I would have coped at his age in a situation such as this.

Virtual classrooms with O-Level exams looming ahead and no Sinhala tuition, no more football, no face-to-face contact with his friends, people in masks reminding him of the horrors of science fiction movies, no hugging his grandparents, no walking into McDonalds to sit down and have his favourite ice-cream, no chatting with ‘next door aiya’.  To add to which ‘Amma’ confiscated his phone and now it’s only rationed time on ‘her’ phone. 

I hope all this ends soon and we can return to our ‘normal’ lives again.  But I’m not sure I want to return to things the way they were before the lockdown.  I wonder what’s going through his mind.  Then I think of all his friends, the students I teach, and wonder how they are coping. 

When I asked him: “How many people are up at this time of the night doing sit-ups?”

He said, “Plenty of people.”