The power of sound

Laila suffered from lockdown. The virus deprived her of a social life and that took its toll on her. Sitting in a coffee shop with colleagues and discussing fashion, or dropping by the neighbour’s Italian for a glass of prosecco. Discussing the latest family rumours over a piece of cake with Aunt Marta at the bakery was Laila’s greatest pleasure. Nothing of it remained. Aunt Marta was so afraid of the virus that she hardly left her house. The neighbour had to increase her workload because her husband had lost his job and she had no time at all for “a bit of gossip”. And her colleagues disappeared in all directions and were unreachable.

Laila was desperate. There were days when she had not spoken to a single living person (she did not count phone calls and video chats). She walked around the city just to see people. However, no one seems to have the desire or courage to stop and talk to a strange woman. Every now and then she realised that if she approached someone too closely, the person would then try to keep more distance. Laila became heavy-hearted and filling her own day and organising it became increasingly difficult for her. She did not see the light at the end of the tunnel and the belief that everything would change for the better was missing.

What remained were the walks through the city and window shopping. It was a windy day when Laila crossed the big square with small steps and turned into the small alley, towards the little park. And at that moment she heard the voice of a turtledove. No, there were no turtledoves where she lived, in this little town. She saw nothing but heard the unmistakable bird’s voice. It was a turtledove. It must have been ages since she had last heard such a voice. And when she heard the voice, another park appeared in her mind’s eye, almost 200 kilometres away from here. She hadn’t been there for at least 40 years. She had always gone for a walk with her beloved grandmother in that small, distant park when she was a very little girl. Almost every morning when her mother had to work and she was in her grandmother’s care. The little park was home to turtle doves and Laila loved their calls. The bird’s voice took her back decades, to the time when she was a little girl not yet in school. At that moment she craved strawberries with whipped cream. Something she hadn’t eaten for ages. She used to go to the confectioner’s once a week, always after going to the park with her grandmother, and she loved to eat the strawberries with whipped cream.

She saw all this now as vividly as if it had been yesterday and not 70 years ago. She felt the warmth of her grandmother’s big warm hand. How she held her hand and in her mouth she had the taste of strawberries with cream. Laila interrupted her walk and went straight to the Coop. She bought a pack of strawberries and whipped cream and went home. The gloom was gone for the day – the calls of the turtledove, which had brought back the memories of the past, successfully drove her away.

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