Quarantine Journal IV

April 14th, 07:20 pm

What happens to historical events when they’re erased from history? What does that do to the collective psyche? How do I, as a largely not skinny woman, feel when I’m constantly barraged by singular images of white, airbrushed, modelesque bodies for years on an end across all content that I ever consume?

Today, I saw four episodes of two animated lizards in New York during the Covid crisis, echoing our most banal thoughts back to us. The absurdity of technology, routinely despised, now people willingly giving up their privacy for round the clock surveillance, in exchange for Governments promising to keep them safe, the magnitude of life lost and the simplicity of desperate gestures, acts we all resort to when we’re at risk of losing the ones we love. Difficult to articulate any of this until it’s condensed into an art form with an idea of absurdity attached to it — dancing on a rooftop looking out streets which are entirely empty, doctors having to hold hands of dying patients, loved ones watching through glass windows, coffins being lowered into the ground by men in hazmat suits, meditation and yoga courses being made free of cost, people reaching out to one another for supply runs, food packet deliveries, medicines, money, cake, birthday parties on zoom, being taken in by the police for defying the lockdown to take your bleeding cat to the vet, absorbing the various anxieties and fears of the ones you stay with, even though they come from an entirely good place, they mean well but realising that they too struggle to condense what’s going on. So, they stick to the only constructs they know — work, self-improvement, a sense of duty — perhaps that takes the edge off the looming threat of mortality staring all of us in the face these days.

I think this period might be just be a time to take stock of what makes us the most uncomfortable and sit with it. Boredom, accelerated intimacy, one’s own company, being around the ones we love, sharing even you don’t wish to, checking our impulse to tune into the news every hour, checking the impulse to stop checking the death count before bed every night, stopping ourselves from tuning into every communal hashtag, news channel managing to spin a humanitarian crisis into a communal one. Today has been absurd. I wouldn’t say I’m coming apart at the seams but it is Day 31 and the cracks are beginning to show. I first had a long discussion with my boyfriend’s mother about my approach to work. My heart rate elevates for the first few times since all of this began and I’ve been staying in. But, it works. I’m here — writing this. She reminds me of my father in fair bits. Second, I got hungry and didn’t act on it and then when my boyfriend, who’s truly the best, made us food, I threw a fit when I felt like I didn’t have enough. A few seconds before, he asked me to take his phone out of his pocket because it was buzzing and it was his ex calling. Next thing I know, I’m in the washroom outside his room crying my eyes out. I have no idea why I cry. All I know is I haven’t met my mother since October and I miss her warm hugs and the smell of her dupatta. I also know that owing to our relationship, not much would change when all this ends. I cried for the fact that I know better, I cried for all the grief that comes with working on yourself and understanding how inherently flawed your parents can be, I cried for the love I faltered in giving, even for a few seconds, to my boyfriend. I cried for a community that’s been vilified for over many years in a country that wouldn’t even consider them human. I cried for the news of the riots that has stopped trickling in, the relief camps that were cleared out, for the short-term public memory, for the heavy albatross we all carry in our chests, the weight of our last names, the slight embarrassment we feel, how we assume we’re lesser, how hard we try not to be a bother or a nuisance or to be perceived equal. How much gender bias comes into play every day in households. I cried because I feel a deepening gulf between my father and I. I cry because everyday, I want to tell him so much but I don’t because there’s far too much that’s been left unsaid and I wouldn’t know where to start. I cry because even though I know I blame my mother for leaving, I also know I’d expect my daughter to do the same if her husband treated her the way my father treated my mother. I cry for my own insecurities stopping me from accepting love entirely and how weak I feel every time I reach out to my ex-boyfriend during a moment of crisis or when my grandma passed away.

I know that life is cyclical because nature is cyclical. Nature’s repetitive patterns, the way the wind blows through the leaves or the way water trickles out of a stream into rivers or the fact that dawn comes after night or spring follows winter, how my boyfriend and I cave into each other's arms moments before bed or sip from the same cup of tea, the rhythm of passing a cigarette between our respective hands looking out at a city skyline.

The sky’s been extraordinary blue and the sea shimmers beyond the fishing docks. The palm trees dot streets and as the sun descends, lights go on in every building I can see outside. People contained neatly in their homes with their families, spouses, friends, on rooftops playing jazz solos, I keep dreaming of being herded like sheep across dusty, barren landscapes, into red-brick boarding school, pretty on the outside, stifling on the inside, my boyfriend constantly abandoning my in my dreams for faceless/nameless women, some old and familiar fears knocking the wind out of me, lucid dreaming, wake up and loop into his arms again, new textures of skin and a new kind of morning breath.

20th April, 2 pm

When I check my notifications on Facebook this morning, I receive two requests from a film photographer and a writer/actor asking me to like their pages ostentatiously titled after their own names — not a person, but a brand. I balk at the idea of self-promotion at a time like this. I got carried away and turned down a content writing gig I’d managed to secure. The work seemed so inane, so wrong at a time like this. Not sure what I’ll do about money. Can’t keep asking parents for it. Clients who owe me money have completely stopped responding. I can feel a sense of generalised anxiety creeping back in today. I’ve had a fungal/bacterial vaginal and uterus infection for about 23 days now. My boyfriend and I haven’t had sex in two weeks even though we’re living together. And, it’s funny cuz I’m pretty sure if it wasn’t for this infection, we’d be having a lot of sex. This relationship is so new — barely four months old. All conversations have revolved around hygiene and the infection and how it hurts or burns. At some point, he caved and told his mother who’s been absolutely lovely about it. My card got blocked.

Life caught up in these endless, bureaucratic, technological expectations, nothing moves, everything seems like yet another obstacles particularly designed for a specialised kind of suffering. The more I try to control, the more it slips away. I think I drank too much coffee earlier today. Had a bit of a panic attack after — sweaty armpits. I haven’t been meditating or been doing yoga. I can really feel myself sinking. An online quiz had predicted I’d lose my shit on 20th April (day 37). I don’t know who I can reach out to. My suffering pales in comparison. I dream of my parents every night. Yet nothing they tell me feels reassuring, nothing they say feels like a kind word of love or care or support or empathy from their side. We just grow further apart — in different directions. I call them once every day since it’s some sort of duty to do that but my heart’s not in it. It’s fake. I really need to start meditating again.

Compassion fatigue. Just feel like crying all the time. My equation with two people closest to me has changed irrevocably. They’re going through relentless shit and I feel like the shit I go through pales in comparison. There’s nothing I can share or be open to any kind of solace. It’s too much and I wouldn’t know where to start. I think this problem/disease has taken a bigger toll than I’m willing to admit. My period’s going to be late too. Just zero catharsis. Not sure how much yoga or meditation or therapy or Jung shim or grounding is required to just be okay. I feel like I’m carrying way too much right now and I don’t want to anymore. I really don’t otherwise I’m going to start resenting the ones closest to me. I’m the go-to friend. I’ve been indoors for 36 days.

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