Photo by Ewa Rasala/Haines Eason.
We conclude our time in Spain with Bear Review contributor Marcus Slease. Slease has given us an autofictional account of his experiences. Reader, we hope you and yours are well.
Co-editor, Bear Review
LOCKDOWN DAY 16
The world meter indicates spikes in Italy, Spain and now newly onboard, after months of delay and disorganisation, the United States of America, rapidly climbing the scoreboard, I’ve got to sweep, he thinks, the dust invades our noses, a cough or sneeze and you wonder do I have it, it is better to keep the room fresh, a fresh room can help us, he thinks, Pineapple is sleeping, her coffee on the nightstand, the third week of lockdown, is it better to keep track of the days and weeks or forget about them, what is time anyway, the once in a lifetime pilgrim trip is cancelled, all flights cancelled, but maybe they can rebook it, with the airline credit, if the airline doesn’t go under, and soon (is it one week away?), he will turn 46, but he thought it was 47, it is good to estimate up rather than down, at least in terms of age, this is an Epicureanism slash Stoicism technique: expect the worst, and then imagine surviving it.
LOCKDOWN DAY 17
What am I expecting, he thinks, that I will live through the virus, but more importantly Pineapple, since I cannot imagine surviving without her, is it wrong to expect surviving, he thinks, since my mind already moves towards the worst and this increases my anxiety, maybe in this case it is good to slide towards the optimistic, they are in the age group with lower mortality, no major health issues (unless hidden), but even if they survive the virus (is it a plague?), they will still have to practice safe practices, like social distancing, to avoid infecting others, and maybe also becoming infected, who knows who has immunity, this is an important step in the war against the virus, who is in the clear and who needs to stay home, we cannot all stay home forever, the economy tumbling and tumbling, food and survival, we are not out of woods yet, he thinks, even with their age, they need to make their lungs bigger, and also all their family, the at risk groups, like probably almost everyone on the planet someone knows someone or is someone at higher risk for the virus, also the paranoia mental state, already suffering from PTSD and anxiety and now it is higher, deep cleaning and quarantining everything from the supermarket.
LOCKDOWN DAY 18
Fear & suspicion is palpable, who is carrying the virus, someone just coughed behind me, he thinks, is it a dry cough or wet cough, a wet cough is safer than a dry cough, his heartbeat is racing and his head spinning, here in Spain, like Italy, they are reaching max capacity, or have already reached it, not enough protective equipment, the health workers and bus drivers dying, more and more of the front line infected, in Madrid a skating rink has been turned into a morgue, undercover police cars make sure no one is breaking the strict lockdown, people need receipts for everything, because some people take long walks with toilet paper, in the hospitals, with lack of critical supplies, they have to decide who to save and who to let die, based on age and potential longevity, and how likely they are survive and beat the virus, I don’t want the virus, he thinks, if I have to have the virus it is not a good time to have it, he thinks, with the overcrowding and shortages, it is better to get it later, or not at all, or maybe I’ve already had it and didn’t know, like that terrible flu we had in January, she says, maybe that was it, she says, or maybe it wasn’t, he says, there is no way to know anything entirely, everyone is suffering, outside every few days for groceries, one at a time, with a scarf around the face, quarantining the food on the special shelf for 3 days, rubbing down the bottles and plastic with alcohol, today is Tuesday, yesterday was Monday, or maybe it is Thursday, where to focus the energy, too much politics in the morning is pissing in your cornflakes, it is 8:16 a.m., he is thinking about getting out there, for supplies, before another 12 hour day teaching online for the high school, what kind of world do we want to live in?
LOCKDOWN DAY 19
It is Thursday, moving towards the end of the third week in lockdown, the American president wanted to reboot the economy at Easter, I’m not dying for Wall Street was trending on Twitter, America will soon become the world epicentre, what can they learn from Spain and Italy, they are not taking it seriously, a cacophony of false information, spurred on by the misinformation of the American president, for so long calling it a cold, then maybe a flu, and soon it will disappear like a miracle before they have even tested for it, and now the people are suffering, the corporations will receive the biggest welfare check in human history, the people will wait for small trickles, from the top to the bottom the gap is widening, who wants another revolution, can’t we invent a better economic system?
LOCKDOWN DAY 20
In Spain they are spraying down the streets with harsh chemicals called Karcher, we need to switch to whiskey for longevity, he says, as opposed to beer, the bloating, or wine, the allergies, the balcony is slowly receiving sunlight, the doves keep returning to the same spot for shitting, we need to find a deterrent, she says, all is quiet, finally, no news, no online teaching, a little headspace with coffee and whiskey, he walks over the bridge to Carrefour for groceries, and also a special treat of whiskey for his 46th birthday on Monday, my head is light, he thinks, adjusting the scarf to cover his mouth and nose holes, his glasses fogging, his heart thumping, watching what you are touching and who is close to you, the virus spread by breathing, his chronic anxiety racing higher and higher, watching it race rather than trying to resist it, adjusting the scarf slipping from his nose or letting it slip, using a scarf the wrong way is worse than not using it, you do not want your hands close to the openings of your nose and eyes and mouth holes, what about the earholes, he thinks, does the virus travel through the earholes, it is better not to risk it, don’t touch anything on your body until you have sung the queen’s song with soap and water.
LOCKDOWN DAY 21
My back is better today, he thinks, these 12 hour days sitting on a chair, grading & online teaching, I’ve got to move around more, he says, we’re gaining weight, she says, we need a routine, squeeze it in somewhere, between the increase in work and domestic duties, what can you do to make your limbs feel better, you’ve got to keep up your health with the daily deluge of numbers, a million infected, the dead cremated or stored in refrigerated lorries, lack of masks and gloves and gowns to protect the front line, not enough ventilators, and now heading into poorer countries like India, and Africa, and South America, the global south, 10 min qigong in the mornings, 10 min in the evening, aerobic dance therapy in the afternoon, no news, rationing the internet, massive cutbacks on technology for sanity, strawberries and porridge for breakfast, on the rooftops people are walking in circles, keeping their social distance, walking around and around for exercise, a little fresh air from their cages, on one rooftop someone is bench pressing, walking and walking in circles, on another roof an athlete is sprinting around the chimneys, empty buses swish past the bus stops, more and more people peeping from their balconies, we are still here, they are saying without speaking, we are still here.
LOCKDOWN DAY 22
I have to work on my headspace, he thinks, one day at a time, one moment at a time, wish we were allowed outside to exercise with social distancing, he thinks, Carrefour soon, a Love Supreme on the stereo, shopping takes a long time with long lines, & trying not to walk too close to anyone, I haven't scrubbed the veggies with soap, just water, he thinks, scrubbing the veggies with soap would take forever, and more importantly, I am not sure I want soap on my veggies, the price of veggies has increased, there is talk of bringing in insects, cheap and nutritious, I’ll have to get my head around a grasshopper sandwich, he thinks, keep cleaning, he thinks, a clean house restores the focus, one word at a time, slowing down you have to manage the crisis, it’s called bending the curve but when will we bend it, he thinks, the death tolls rising, but maybe the infection rates slowly falling, Spain and Italy hit the hardest in Europe, social distancing is currently buzzing around the planet, stay away, stay home, but the young are not fully listening, crowding the parks and beaches in various parts of the planet, what can you learn from Spain and Italy, in this country the numbers are dropping slightly, starving the virus with social distancing, the after effects coming later, the world economy sliding into a great depression, at least one year or maybe two from a cure, nothing will be the same after, no more Spanish kisses, the restaurants will remain mostly empty, nothing fully recovered, and my school, he thinks, with international students, will they return in the fall for classes, for now a reduction in wages while working overtime, but it is better than no wages and starvation, how will we survive the crisis even when the curve is flattened, it is hard to imagine the future, this can lead to depression, you have to imagine surviving, even in the freewill, landing on your feet somehow, even though it is hard to imagine anything returning to normal, what is normal, the news networks differ from country to country, the Germans and British, dry and factual, quite logical, the Americans a Hollywood blockbuster, with heart thumping theme music, the reporters bug eyed and breathless, an election year hanging in the balance, unemployment in Europe and America at all time highs, the death rates in the U.K. climbing, and this morning the birds, louder and louder, swooping from balcony to balcony, rooftop to rooftop, I have to spray everything down with vinegar and water, he thinks, in the mornings, before they land, and also the afternoon and early evening, right before sunset, the acidic droppings, he thinks, and the black mould climbing the walls, is it better to freeze in the mornings, with fresh air to try to clear the moisture, or wait till the afternoon for the sun to burn the mould, the birds are squawking, what are they saying, we are entering the 4th week of isolation, she says, the numbers are slightly falling, maybe two more weeks and we can leave the house for exercise, but still cautiously, keeping the social distance, maybe I should order some masks, he says, but the masks are in short supply, millions of them in route to Canada, France, and Germany stolen by America, modern day piracy, says Germany, this is not the time for wild west tactics, they say, America first is the American president’s official foreign policy, my head is itchy, he thinks, the pressure is building, 400% increase in workload with a 500 euro per month reduction in salary, the millionaire owners, the same story over and over, the workers bear the brunt of it, but there’s food and shelter, and also, for now, their health, you have to protect yourself mentally, he thinks, the nightly clapping less and less, more and more quiet, the cold rain falling, I’m at war with a pigeon, he thinks, everyday, multiple times a day, acidic droppings, I clean it with vinegar and water, sometimes bleach, but it keeps returning, Facebook is a continuous stream of stinks, the news of more and more divisions, the books on the shelf, he thinks, when can I return to reading them, it is hard to concentrate on them, to do one thing, you have to forget about the other thing, but the other thing is always there waiting, the shadow of a pigeon fluttering past him.
LOCKDOWN DAY 23
It is his 46th birthday, the small dogs barking, the morning pigeon chased away from the balcony, Telegrams for the Soul due in the afternoon or evening, from Amazon, some peat whiskey in the evening, or maybe afternoon, last night the dreams, so many, his past in America, in particular Utah, where his family still lives, and his ex-wife and ex-father-in- law, drinking goblets of wine, waiting for the end of the world, even though this is highly unlikely, not the end of the world, but the drinking of wine, since his ex-father-in-law is staunch Mormon, lives near the Mormon temple, they have had strong earthquakes recently, Moroni’s trumpet has fallen, lo and behold here comes the second coming, it is really happening, here comes Jesus, where do I belong really, he thinks, in the middle of a pandemic, the fourth week of lockdown, but finally being able to concentrate, read books and write with some kind of rhythm, his job teaching high school online sucking it all out of him, but here now on Easter break he can find it, a natural rhythm to his existence, from country to country, and Pineapple is making vegetarian lasagna for his birthday, carrot cake later, peat whiskey in the evening, or maybe afternoon, something special, from a small island in Scotland, feeling fancy, you might as well enjoy it, try not to think about the worst, or even the better, settle in, here now, in confinement, making the best of it, 46 and still living, so many countries and adventures, the unpredictable twists and turns, sometimes a hairpin, you can never predict anything really, where will this life take you, changing constantly, so many lifetimes, so many people, so many ways of being, still going, today is my 46th birthday, he thinks, what does it mean, he never thought he would get there, into his 40’s, but now that he is here, he wouldn’t mind reaching his 50’s, and maybe his 60’s and 70’s, the elderly are not expendable, he thinks, the obsession with youth is a fear of death, we have to come together, he thinks, coming together is the best policy, young and old, from every country.
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