Photo by Marcus Slease.
Sometimes something real and more-than-topical falls in your lap. Former Bear Review contributor Marcus Slease reached out to us recently. He, like many of us, is living a quarantined life. However, in his version, the site of quarantine is Spain, now a global coronavirus hotspot.
This is a daily record, via an autofictional account, of his experiences. What follows is days one through nine.
Co-editor, Bear Review
LOCKDOWN DAY 1
No cars or people. The sound of birds everywhere. You can only leave the house to buy groceries around the corner. People allowed into the shop a few at time, with social distancing. Silent shopping. Shopkeepers in masks. All the playground equipment taped shut. Yesterday, in the evening, the entire city came to their balcony to clap and cheer for the front line doctors and nurses. The balcony is across from the hospital. Some cars pulled up late at night with people running in coughing. Fear, hope, strangeness. Whiskey in the evening. Or maybe a tad earlier. When this is over, we will appreciate being able to move about freely. It is hard to concentrate on anything. News and more news. Jumping jacks in the living room.
LOCKDOWN DAY 2
He picked up salt and whiskey at the supermarket. Some people fully wrapped in scarfs and masks. Walking down the aisle everyone practicing social distancing. Many people jittery. A person jumped when he walked around the corner for the salt aisle. Someone said hola to someone and they waved and stepped back from them. No one talking. Silent shopping. Tape to stand behind. The cashier in mask and gloves. There are many elderly people in their local community and in the building. Walking 10 flights of stairs instead of using lift. Back home to online high school teaching. Whiskey in the evening. Or maybe a tad earlier. When this is over, we will appreciate being able to move about freely. It is hard to concentrate on anything. News and more news. Jumping jacks in the living room.
LOCKDOWN DAY 3
Whiskey in the evening. Or maybe a tad earlier. When this is over, we will appreciate being able to move about freely. It is hard to concentrate on anything. News and more news. Every night at 8 p.m., everyone comes to their balconies to clap for the front line health workers. Some cheers and hollers. The ambulances, at the only hospital in the city, across from their balcony, flash their lights in solidarity. Jumping jacks in the living room.
LOCKDOWN DAY 4
There is more presence of police and civil guard on the streets. Only one person per household allowed grocery shopping at a time. Feeling the effect of not being able to walk for exercise. 14 hour work days. Skype conferencing with 100 students weekly from all over the world. On the other hand, they feel grateful for a job and some income. When this is over, we will appreciate being able to move about freely. It is hard to concentrate on anything. News and more news. Priorities: limiting the news, bending and stretching, dance therapy. Whiskey in the evening. Or maybe a tad earlier.
LOCKDOWN DAY 5
When this is over, we will appreciate being able to move about freely. It is hard to concentrate on anything. News and more news. People were renting dogs for people who want to walk. The renting of dogs has stopped. Too late. Medicinal marijuana. Stopped. Coming out of the cave. Dancing on balcony to silent music. Whiskey in the evening. Or maybe a tad earlier. Keep your blood moving.
LOCKDOWN DAY 6
Outside, among the people, to buy bread at the German bakery. One at a time inside the bakery. Everyone keeping their distance. Some people in masks and gloves. The yellow tape to stand behind. Outside the bakery, someone is rolling a delivery of water. Fully covered. You can only see their eyes. No one is speaking to anyone. Dreamy. When this is over, we will appreciate being able to move about freely. It is hard to concentrate on anything. Whiskey in the evening. Or maybe a tad earlier. News and more news. At 8 p.m. people come to their balcony to bang saucepans. The ambulances flash their lights in solidarity.
LOCKDOWN DAY 7
There is an information overload on social media, incorrect information from the United States president, but the people believe in him, a cult following. Some people need supreme beings, on earth and also in the heavens. Do you believe in a supreme being? Do you believe believe believe? What does it mean to believe, or not believe, the people believe what they want to believe, no evidence needed. When this is over, we will appreciate being able to move about freely. It is hard to concentrate on anything. News and more news. Whiskey in the evening. Or maybe a tad earlier.
LOCKDOWN DAY 8
I’m not happy with a guy who doesn’t move a lot, she says. The sirens have just been activated. It is the second week of lockdown, going outside every few days to gather food. The mask and gloves, the yellow tape to stand behind, and at 8 p.m. everyone on their balconies, clapping for the front line health workers, and one night of pot banging (against the king), and now, Sunday, the weekend, moving away from 14 hour a day online teaching, resting but also needing to move, waiting for the sun to hit the balcony for dance therapy, avoid the news, check twice daily, but it’s too hard, we are in flight or fight mode, she says, it is hard to not keep checking the news, the number of infected and dead, over and over, the daily tally on the world meter, a perverse scoring system, which country is top of the scoreboard today, they are currently in the centre of the second epicentre in Europe, fast becoming the first, climbing and climbing up the scoreboard for infections and mortalities, at first it was novel, and now it is less novel, a strict lockdown, since the numbers keep spiking, following the course of Italy, with the highest mortality rate in the world, and everyone waiting on eggshells, when the ball drops in their community, city, and country. He sneezes into his sleeve. A dog barks. The pigeons are getting thinner.
LOCKDOWN DAY 9
Pollution levels are dropping. The canals in Venice less murky, you can see the fish in them, no not dolphins, that was a hopeful fantasy, circulated via social media, a small lie, as opposed to the bigger lies, circulating and recirculating, a cacophony of information and disinformation, a post-truth era, the U.S. president has suspended all environmental protection laws in the fight against the virus, from denial of a crisis to a bigger denial, environmental catastrophe, lies pilled on twisted truths and falsehoods, the pile up stinks to the heavens, how do you untangle them, this is just a warm up, how are we doing, borders closing, a condom shortage, the U.N. warning of food shortage without a lifting of tariffs, without a workforce to pick the vegetables, the U.S. president telling the state governments they have to refrain from criticising him if they want medical aid, it’s a two way street he says, less tourism and traveling, human activity slowing down the collapse of the environment and mass extinction, from one virus to another, reach out and touch someone, the canals in Venice less murky, you can see the fish in them.
Marcus Slease is a (mostly) absurdist, surrealist and minimalist writer from Portadown, N. Ireland. He is the author of The Green Monk, The Spirit of the Bathtub, and Play Yr Kardz Right, among others. His writing has appeared in various magazines and anthologies, including: Tin House, Best British Poetry, Versopolis Review, Poetry, and Fence. Currently, he lives in Castelldefels, Spain and teaches high school literature in Barcelona. Never Mind the Beasts, a novel in micro fictions, is forthcoming from Dostoyevsky Wannabe in May 2020. Find out more on his website: Never Mind the Beasts and follow him on Twitter: @postpran