Love in the Time of Corona
Apart from a staff member sitting at a table with a reserved sign at it’s centre, Wilde & Co – the cafe I have been coming to these last few months, is empty. Of course, I am here also and they’ve made a fuss, oddly proud of the changes they’ve made. Gone are half the tables. The ones that remain look lonely and stand-offish; like strangers at a party too scared to talk to one another.
Gone too are the cushions and the salt and pepper shakers. The glass jars that at once hosted cutlery and napkins. Chilled water appears in a small paper cup, the type a ward nurse might give a patient to help wash down pills. The streets are as empty as the cafe, and Sydney – my Sydney, has become a ghost.
The virus has brought this city to a stop and the world to its knees. Each morning brings bad news; a mounting death toll in Italy, greater rates of infection in Europe and North America. There is talk of the airlines being grounded for 6 months or more. I see the concern on peoples faces as they enter, ordering soy latte’s but never far from the virus. Coronavirus. Some killer strain that we should have planned for earlier.
The news says it grew in a market. Born from butchering animals any old way. Somehow their juices have mixed, their bloods intermingled, and what came to be has entered one of us; through an eye or a nose or an open wound; so contagious now that to walk through the mist of someone’s breathed out breath is akin to putting the snub nosed tip of a .38 in your mouth.
In the time that has passed one has become many. There has been no shortage of willing hosts. We have become vessels, wet and warm, shipping killer cargo to far flung places. First China, then Europe, now the world.
For the most part I have followed instructions. I am hunkered down in my home; grateful, not scared, but increasingly concerned. As the infection spreads the ease with which I live becomes more constrained. Freedoms and liberties and those small enjoyments are slowly being taken away. I bemoan the fact that yoga classes have been cancelled then immediately think myself a cock. What of others, small business and the like. How will they get along?
Reports suggest we are behaving badly, with some hoarding food and essentials. Supermarkets have become battle grounds; spaghetti and toilet rolls the new spoils of war. I have cause to wonder how low we might go should things get worse. What wrongs are we capable of inflicting upon one another if it comes to it. I’m scared of us more than I am the virus.
I’m scared of our dark natures and the shame I would feel if suddenly they were on full display. It’s not hard to imagine Corona as a one act play in which we abandon all but ourselves. The pain that would come from seeing with my own eyes what I’ve always secretly suspected. That we have become lost to ourselves. Obsessed with self, what small addition to this threat might it take to bring our hands to one another’s throats?
It is a time for us to withdraw. Into ourselves, our households, and communities. There are lessons to be learnt from this. Each day spent alone brings the chance of re-birth. The chance that we might remember some essential element of ourselves and put it to good use, so that it might pave the way for the rest of our lives.