For more than two and a half years, I successfully avoided being infected with COVID-19. I got the vaccines, and I was one of the first in line every time there was a booster. Over time, I began to think of the at-home tests as similar to a pregnancy test. I had taken every precaution, but I knew I had had sex…so to speak. Condoms break, masks slip, and there were also those occasions where I would take a chance…just this once. So…eventually, my luck ran out, and like millions of others, the blue line couldn’t be denied…I had Covid, and once again, I was in isolation. Because I was vaxxed and boosted, my infection, although not pleasant and lasting much too long, was relatively mild and similar to a bad cold. Not wanting to take a chance on infecting anyone else; however, I once again spent time secluded, sequestered, and alone. While I kept hydrated, rested, and blew my nose, blew my nose, and blew my nose, it was impossible not to recall the first scary time when everyone and everything was put on hold.
During the covid lockdown of 2020, I was incredibly lonely.
I yearned for connection with a warm-blooded mammal besides the squirrels who would come to raid my bird feeder or gather the seeds I spread next to my chair on the deck. Oh, sure. They’d let me feed them and come tantalizingly close to my dangling fingers, but they’d never let me touch them. Probably just as well. Who knows who else might have been cohabiting inside their furry little coats.
I didn’t even have a plant. Someone who needed me but wouldn’t judge me for moments of benign neglect and would listen attentively to all my worries, concerns, or even tall tales without judgment far into the additional loneliness of night.
Against this backdrop, Effie arrived on my doorstep.
“You’re going to love her”” my across-the-yard neighbor had told me
“Well, we’ll see,” I replied skeptically, but then…Oh, why not? If she doesn’t work out, she doesn’t have to stay.”
“When the world is so complicated, the simple gift of friendship is within all of our hands.”Maria shriver
You might imagine the excitement and the wee bit of trepidation I had when she arrived at my door with instructions for the care and attention she’d need. Of course, I’d have to make sure she was clean and rested between play times, but I didn’t have to worry about struggling with her at nap time as she had her own sleeping pad, and, I was assured, she would put herself to sleep when she was tired.
On the following morning, she was so quiet that I hadn’t noticed her going from room to room exploring. She nosed into the corners, gathered dust bunnies from under the beds, and, much to my embarrassment, emerged from the closet draped with a carelessly discarded pair of kickers. Lamps teetered as she tugged curiously on their cords, and she randomly repositioned anything left in her path. I reminded myself that she was just young and inquisitive.
Eventually, she became accustomed to being in my space, and I began to welcome her company…feeling relaxed when she went off to play. I learned that if I placed the chairs carefully around my table, she couldn’t get stuck and require assistance to extricate herself and redirect her activity. I learned from experience to move the lamp cords and double-check where I placed my crocheting and extra yarn. Before long, I also began to look for her when she was too quiet. I knew she was probably up to or into something. In an amazingly short time, began to look forward to hearing her moving about or watching as she slid under chairs or climbed up and over the threshold of my fireplace, and I’d smile as she’d make tighter and tighter concentric circles before winding down and putting herself to sleep.
With Effie around, I no longer felt quite so alone.
“Friendship is the hardest thing in the world to explain. It’s not something you learn in school. But if you haven’t learned the meaning of friendship, you really haven’t learned anything.” — Muhammad AliMuhammad Ali
Our relationship did, however, feel like I’d slipped into The Lonely, an episode of the Twilight Zone. A convicted criminal, James Corry has been placed in solitary confinement alone on an asteroid 9 million miles from Earth. When a supply ship arrives with a female robot companion, Corry’s life changes for the better. Soon, he sees her not as a machine but as a friend. Effie and I have a similar backstory. Effie…A Roomba knockoff…EUFY Boost IQ RoboVac… had become my friend. Unlike the TwiIight Zone episode, I didn’t leave her behind after isolation, however. She is with me in my new condo and continues to amuse me as she finds further mischief for herself.
Who can explain friendship? To paraphrase a famous quote: Friends come into our lives for a reason, a season, or for as long as their battery holds a charge.