Friday, 27 March 2020

Filling The Pool

This morning I awoke to the sun-dappled street shimmering gloriously through the window by my bedside, and for a moment it felt like any ordinary day. It wasn't long, however, before reality crept up and swung a sledgehammer of anxiety through my spine, bursting like a firework in my chest and wriggling uncomfortably through me from head to toe. 

It's how most days begin now. Although last night I had a particularly uncomfortable dream that I had this tiny, scone-sized dog I had to take care of, so for safekeeping decided to keep it inside my mouth, only to accidentally part-swallow it and start dry-heaving and choking in the dead of the night. I'm sure that has some profound meaning somewhere. 

Surreal updates of the last few days include our Prime Minister, ruler of the realm and daily harbinger of doom and gloom, has become infected. This comes the day after news that the sickness has also come for Prince Charles, heir to the throne and (debatable) future King of England. In these unprecedented times where the everyday news is stranger than fiction, it's not actually implausible to picture a world where this wipes out the entire Government and Royal Family. This virus doesn't care if you are a Prince or a peasant, if you have a human form you are vulnerable. Right now we are all equal in the eyes of this invisible enemy and that's both parts terrifying and... somehow slightly iconic.

Wholesome distractions have become key in preventing a complete mental breakdown. In search of such activity, I posted on our community noticeboard and a couple of hours later picked up a little packet of tomato seeds an old lady across the neighbourhood had left out for me. I spent the afternoon potting them on the balcony, watching folks in medical masks and plastic gloves meander aimlessly below, using their stipulated 'daily exercise' allowance as a chance to relish the sensation of the sun on their faces.


As twilight drew in, Tom and I thoroughly sanitised the handles and saddles of some rental bikes and cycled down through the dead city, past the marina with the carefully spaced queues snaking outside the big supermarket, and toward the tall white cliffs by the ocean. The sun was golden and the sky dressed in pearlescent shades of pink and lilac, and just for a moment I willed myself to let go and embrace the solitary stillness of the present. But a previous traverser of this path had scrawled 'GO THE FUCK HOME' in chalk on the wall overlooking the sea, and guilt reached up in thick, suffocating tentacles and dragged me back into the depths, knowing full well they were right. 

It's barely been a fortnight, but I can already feel this inescapable sadness burrowing through the core of me. It's not even just the anxiety of this everyday madness, but extended time alone with nothing to really do has left my brain quiet enough to let all my old demons start to yell again. 

'This lockdown is re-calibrating the world.' My Mother said in a moment of profoundness the other day, and I've been thinking about it a lot. There's people likening this to a world war, the blitz, or the Spanish flu, but in reality, no-one alive on this planet has ever gone through this before. We are the most technologically advanced and well-connected evolution of humankind and we are being decimated by an enemy we cannot see or predict, whilst trying to protect the quivering pillars of modern society. It's more akin to an alien invasion than anything else. We have never been more united or more isolated, and everyone everywhere is fucking terrified and trying not to die. Everything we have ever known is being re-calculated in real time, trying to figure out how best to secure the future. 

And all the while we are stuck inside our houses indefinitely, being told that the best thing we could possibly do to help, is do absolutely nothing at all. So I guess it's no wonder these demons are rearing their ugly heads once again. 

Here's my demonic epiphany of the day: I've spent so long trying to flood myself with other people and their stories and lives, that I've let myself become an empty vessel. My whole life I've inexpertly tried to emulate the people I think are happy and have it all together, whilst engineering false identities so they'll think of me as the same. But with no outsider input or things to sway and influence me, when I'm just left on my own, what am I actually left with? Staring endlessly at the same four walls inside my home is like staring at the blankness inside of my own head, and I'm just left with one question. Who the fuck actually am I when I'm by myself? 

When the water mains are turned off, and I find my pool drained and empty, what is there left among the glistening tiles?

This is the time I've always longed for and dreaded in equal measure - It's the time to find out.