I tune in for another instalment of Nando’s daily dance.
He starts on his patio, checking the lay of the land. From there, he makes his way to the street’s edge, hands clasped behind his back, looking north and south.
Once the coast is clear, he makes his move across the street, all shuffling flannel and white hair.
He doesn’t go from A to B. He moves in curves, sniffing the air, checking the clouds, looking at the letterboxes. This is all foreplay, skirting around the main event—the block where the builders work.
Nando pauses for a tasteful amount of time at the edge of the yellow construction sand. Kicking bits of brick over with his sandalled foot, hands still clasped behind his back, looking around and down at the same time.
He sidles up to the large wire bin to see what’s on offer. No more cloud watching for him now, he’s locked in. He releases a hand and reaches in—like that sideshow game where you drop the claw into the pit of treasure and disappointment. He strains at the edge of the bin as he reaches past rubble and broken buckets. It would be easier if he could bend his back fully, but those days are long gone. Eventually, he rises with a timber off-cut in hand. He tucks it under his arm and returns across the street.
His front yard is where he builds his bower. Plants form a perimeter around piles of timber stacked up against two water tanks. He walks up to a table next to the tanks—I helped him move that table from the curb in front of my house last year—and fusses with the blue tarp on top before tucking his new find underneath it.
Then he returns to the street searching for more tributes—our block’s very own street sweeper.
That was a few weeks ago now.
You see, Nando is smack bang in the sights of the virus. Folks his age don’t fare well if they get it. I imagine his kids imploring him to stay inside. I also imagine him being adamant about still wanting to go outside to find things and take them home. Maybe one of his kids is a lawyer or a nurse or a zookeeper because it seems they’ve managed to convince Nando to lay low.
When I look out my front window, I don’t see him anymore.
And the rubbish is piling up.