Sunday, 29 March 2020

The Corona Diaries

Words always find a way of spilling out of me. When there are people around they will pour gently, a soft babble in the background. I will talk to my kids and my husband and my colleagues and my neighbors and my friends and the dog and the cat and the mail man and the grocery store employees I know by name. More words will flow at the school gates and as I pass the people I know dotted around our tight knit community and the partners we serve at work. 

And it turns out when there are no people, when the world is on its head and we are all safely trapped in our own corners of the world, they gush. And after much writing of snippets and ideas and (fairly amateurish) poetry anywhere I happen to be, I find myself back here. A mere 4 year after I last poured my heart and mind and words out to the internet. A quieter, quarantine-permitted version of screaming into the void.

I looked back at a few posts before I started writing this, wondering if I ever really had a voice to call my own. Instead, I had to tell the poor, exhausted woman attempting life with two toddlers to suck it up because worse was coming. Here we are, on lockdown in our own house because of a global pandemic. When I say it out loud, I want to laugh. It's a hysterical laugh. The kind tinged with fear and laced with the unknown. The sort of laugh that says 'This is it. This is real and this is what is normal now and there are no emotions for this'. 

I indulge myself with these laughs every few days. A few moments to allow myself to feel the depths of the absurdity of the situation before I have to pull myself together. There are children to feed in the middle of food shortages (or is it supply issues? The food exists, I just can't quite seem to always get to it when I need it) and lessons to be taught in the midst of school closures. There are family and friends to catch up with from afar. There is work to do. There is so much work to do. 

The strangest things make me cry in all of this, the flipped coin of hysterical laughter. When I drive to work and the roads are empty apart from the desperate day laborers. When the sign outside the comedy club said "We Love You All. We'll See You Soon." When the home and decor section of Target was empty. Aimlessly wandering, sniffing candles and prodding at pillows now off the agenda. When the radio DJ says "we're all scared and we're all in this together and if you need someone to talk to you can send me a message." Too much kindness, too much emptiness, too much cruelty. Those are the things that bring me to the edge now. A different edge than I had before, simultaneously closer and further away than the one I used to have.

We have grown callouses talking about numbers of dead. Numbers of sick. Survival and sanity demand a thick layer of skin between us and the news of those we don't know. Our vocabulary has twisted and adapted with frightening rapidity. 'Stay safe' and 'stay healthy' are have replaced 'goodbye' or 'see you later'. Said with urgency, too. We mean it. 'Not you. Not you this time please' we hope to convey with those two little words.  We, all of us, veer between hope and despair. Optimistic mornings give way to pessimistic sunsets. Where we once had surety we now see fog. No one knows when schools will return or when we can go to the park again. When we will be able to go and sit in a restaurant as someone politely brings us drinks and choice after choice of food. No one knows when libraries will open and we'll be able to wander round, casually indulging in options. I miss options.

And so I finish up screaming into the void for this day. Day 17 of our new normal. Tonight is our glorious take out night. A night when there is a little less work. When I don't have to mentally catalogue what there is in our fridge and how long it will need to last. And at least I have this for posterity. A reminder that this was not a collective fever dream. That it happened and we lived through it. That we did the work and sometimes cried and sometimes laughed. And we were together. So very, very together.

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