I’m sitting here with a migraine that has lasted weeks. I know it’s caused by stress and there’s very little I can do about it. Writing seems like an almost comically insurmountable task and an exercise in pure vanity while the world around me goes into quarantine, people fight over toilet paper and tins of beans.
Corvid-19 is here and right now writing about anything else results in such block that I cannot even bring my fingers to the keyboard. Red, raw fingers, scrubbed and scratched.
They say that the library staff may be redeployed to complete admin work for the NHS, so that nurses and doctors can get on with the life-saving work their lives will be consumed by in the coming weeks and months.
It’s like a car accident that never ends. New developments by the day, hour, minute. None of us can look away. We turn from one screen to another, peaks of anxiety without any real trough. How high can it go? It’s unprecedented.
Everything in my life until this point feels like preparation and play. The anxiety and PTSD that have plagued me for decades were in fact a prelude for the things to come: checking exits, watching crowds and faces, judging tone and menace.
A woman coughed on me while my work was still open to the public and I didn’t sleep that night. How can any of us sleep? We are all tied to our tickers, slaves to our own anxieties.
It changes so fast. It’s all very well to say “look away” but what if, while my head is turned, some new development emerges? The schools are closed. The libraries are closed. You’re still working. You must get to work without commuting. You must get to work anyway. Avoid the public but work with them. Will we be paid? Will my husband lose his job? It was fine a week ago. Overreacting. Now we’re making preparations. Stockpiling because we just don’t know.
Uncertainty is my nemesis. I withdraw. I wallow and yet in my despair I stare, wide-eyed, somehow trying to soak up all of the information and filter out the fear but with one comes the other. That’s just how it is. We’re all in this, now.
People will die. They keep telling us that. How many? Changes by the second. Changes by the speaker. People will die. 2%, 5%, we don’t know.
Hundreds of thousands. More. Less.
People will die. Prepare for that.
Emergency legislation. Emergency powers. Emergency everything. Too slow, too late and what can we do but keep watching and preparing and washing our hands?
Those of us with genocide in our bloodlines know this feeling better than most. We know how quickly a crowd changes, how the world can turn on the head of a pin. We know that neighbourly goodness is highly conditional and the conditions fluctuate erratically. No rhyme. No reason. Same old reasons. Same old rhyme, death at its heels.
Even the old techniques of self-harm seem pointlessly indulgent at this stage. It’s not an internal apocalypse anymore, friends! It’s here! In your house! On your screens! In your streets and shops and parks and neighbours! It’s knocking on your door! Did you paint the lintels? Was it enough?
Even the Egyptians were given options. Were we?
And Boris remained unmoved. And the Tories brought in their court magicians to recreate the global warming trick and the poverty trick and the disability scroungers trick.
And now death creeps but who’s the target this time? The elderly and infirm? Maybe. Seems less discriminate than any angel. Seems less streamlined.
Almost comforting to see the WASPs contemplating their own mortality and their security. Those of us who’ve waited for the jackboots at our door our whole lives almost have an advantage in this. Death has never been too far away, like an old friend.
Still, I have my migraines because how on earth can anyone be creative in a direction except towards the covid, corvid? Great beak full of herbs. An executor. We all see it. You all see my raven now.
Three middle-aged men stood in an alleyway, practising social distancing. Dirty fingers. Grey skin. Heroin cheeks. Six feet apart and sharing the same stub of a cigarette, foul smelling like diesel fumes.
I stepped between a man and a woman. The man was trying to beat the woman for her pack of toilet paper. He tried to beat me instead.
“Get a man,” he said. “Ugly slag,” he said.
Those of us who have been punished for our anatomy have an advantage, in a way. Now you see my raven, pig-man. I see it in your eyes. You’ll beat me but you’ll never escape him. I, at least, am on speaking terms with the beast.
So I drink tea and I write this and I nurse my migraine. I eat nuts and count my blessings. I have toilet paper and beans and rice and tea to drink and nuts to eat.
I have no words for anything else.