It is now the 16th day since the beginning of the quarantine. Reality slapped me on Thursday the 12th, when I was stopped by a policeman who asked my papers: “where are you going and why…” he said, he was not rude, nor there was coldness in his voice, just the mere fact that he was there to check my intentions made me realize that what was happening in my country was real. I read the news daily: I was fairly informed on the horror, on the numerous deaths, the sacrifices that doctor and nurses were enduring to keep up with this silent monster, but everything was processed by my brain as “far-away”.
I read an interview of a man who lost both his parents to the virus; he was sick, too and emotionally falling apart not because of the virus, but because he could not be with his mother and father one last time.
In the meantime, the virus keeps on spreading and the army is facing an ungrateful task, as they have to move coffins across the region to momentarily clear the mortuaries while the other bodies are entombed or cremated. These people died alone, no one to hold their hand while they drew their last breath, not a familiar face to look at, only the yellowish neon of an isolation ward. This virus leaves no space for anything else, as it seems to absorb everything like a black hole. The information obsesses about it with a 24h live coverage on what is happening. The other side of the coin? It is affecting people’s mental health and there are more and more cases of individuals who are experiencing “Coronavirus (COVID-19) anxiety”.
To live in the constant reminder of the death toll rising, of the criticality of the situation, of the adversities encountered by the national health system and of a near-to-collapse economy can leave you panicked in a corner, so one has no choice but to become estranged, at least temporarily, from the news and withdraw in the realms of one’s intimacy, hoping to find calmness.
Being a natural-born paranoid – well, I say to myself that I am a realist – I deal with persistent negative inner-monologues and, particularly in this situation, it is was doing me no good: the only way I found to cope with it was to keep myself busy and when I get the blues I get myself even busier. I know it sounds like a “this is such a second-week-of-quarantine-thing to say”, but is nevertheless true.
It feels like a post-apocalyptical situation from a dystopic novel, but instead it’s Italy’s every day routine since the beginning of March.
This morning I woke up to the sound of an empty street. As I opened my shutters the light poured in my room: I was hit by the sweet smell of the calycanthus my parents planted when I was born. The poor plant, that usually blossoms in the cold, is still undecided on how to behave in this lunatic season. A gentle breeze danced with the leaves and the air smelled clean and fresh. I don’t usually have the time to appreciate such things. My morning routines are erratic: I rush to make my coffee, rush to get ready and rush to the bus stop. I always end up confused, sitting on a bus, too sleepy to be capable of cognitive thinking. These mornings, instead, I have the time to pick-up my pace: I wake up enjoying the small repetitive movements that make my routine; I get to be extra attentive to the music that will keep me company during the day and to what I will do with my time.
It’s in times like these that you realize how many things you take for granted. Having a beer at the pub? Going to the cinema? Going to the supermarket whenever you want? Driving wherever you want? Travelling? All these things are now forbidden – for a good cause, but still -, we have always considered them obvious, part of our lives, almost as if they were part of our bodies. And now we had to cancel travel plans, we had to post-pone all the cool events, we have to drink our beer with friends in front of a webcam.
I found comfort in the black-and-white pages of a long-forgotten book; I found peace in the pictures of my beloved Venice framed by beautiful clear waters populated by tiny fish and ducks; I found reassurance in the therapeutic process of kneading homemade bread and trying new dishes; I found myself capable of constancy and I am finally being persistent with my bass guitar exercises. I keep in touch with friends and family as much as I can, nurturing relationships despite the distance. Most of all I remember to myself to breathe in a moment where all the air seems to have vanished and that, for now, is enough to me.
But whenever this ends, remember the desert roads, the absence of people, laughter and party in your city. Remember the closed shops and the struggles. Remember this because it’s not enough to start playing the Italian national anthem from the windows everyday at 6pm, if when this finishes you forget to help the economy. Don’t forget about the country you loved during the quarantine, because after this lockdown it will need a lot of help to get back on its legs.
Article written by Positive Magazine editors Carmen McIntosh & Francesca Vanin
Photography by Giacomo Cosua
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