One stifling, soulless room has become my whole world – but I’m dreaming of much bigger things

One stifling, soulless room has become my whole world – but I’m dreaming of much bigger things

When we were told to give others a wide berth in March, it wasn’t a huge shock to the system for me – I’ve been practicing social distancing my whole life.

I have terrible social phobia and I loathe parties. The “stay home” part has been more of a drag, as my south London flatshare bedroom is more of a sardine tin than a home: a stifling, soulless box that, usually, I try to stay away from as much as possible.

As a freelancer, I have no office that I belong to, so I work remotely from cafes, pubs, libraries – anywhere with free wifi. Even now that most of these spaces have reopened, I still think it’s safer to make like a sardine and work from “home”.

Because of this, my box has become my whole world. I cook, eat, sleep, work and play here. Early in lockdown, I had the ingenious idea of dividing the room into even smaller sections to create the illusion of a larger overall space. I bought a desk to sit at, and banned myself from my bed until bedtime. I work sitting, facing straight on, and, when I’m not working, I turn my chair to the “play position” – slightly to the left with my feet up, to watch TV, or read, or game.

I turn the chair slightly to the right for mealtimes, when I’m treated to the sight of myself eating, reflected in the mirror of my sliding closet door – at least the room looks bigger in this position. Dining could – and probably should – be done in the shared kitchen, but as well as being socially phobic I’m a hypochondriac, a neurosis that hasn’t been helped by the pandemic. I have seven flatmates, all capable of bringing Covid-19 home, so I’m avoiding them, too.

Overall, the box has become the space in which I prepare for when life resumes. Over the past few months I have acquired a provisional driving licence, received my blue post-Brexit passport and put up a giant map of the US above my bed, which I’ve punctured with multicoloured drawing pins to plot out a fantasy road trip around the Rockies. I’m determined I won’t look back at the box as a space that crushed the last remnants of my resolve; hopefully, I’ll remember it fondly, as the launchpad for my dreams.