By now you’re all swamped with information. I look forward to those waning moments when I can talk about something else. I’m not going to give maths and doomsday accounts here; I need some light shining down from above into our burrow.
I took a walk today. After 3 or 4 days inside, except for walking the dog round the block, it felt very necessary. I didn’t fill out the form you’re meant to take with you, and I didn’t have a reason other than protecting myself from cabin fever, freeing my mind up a little. Since Wednesday’s decree, you’re meant to give a reason: ‘work’, ‘health’ or ‘necessity.’ The streets are fairly empty, almost entirely. Dogs take grateful owners for walks. I wonder if, within the limits of the emergency decree, ‘flaneur’ can be given as a reason on my house-leaving papers.
This whole experience is fucking with my sense of time. It’s normal to stay at home for a few days for one reason or another; but everything changes when you have to because the President told you to on TV, and keeps telling you to. The 24/7 TV, the 24/7 facebook feed, the 24/7 whatsapp groups, the daily updates from the Civil Protection about how many people are dead or dying. There were Civil Protection jeeps driving through the streets today with loudspeakers, “stay indoors, this is the Civil Protection.” At various points yesterday and today people dared out onto their balconies for online-organized national appointments in: music making, clapping, singing the national anthem. Someone sang too loud for this new Pepperland apparently, people came to dance under her window; so someone else called the police, who promptly arrived to break up the scene.
That brittle wall between politics and law has been pulverised, the decrees sent down from above ‘advise’ the citizen what to do; occasionally with threats of prison (e.g. providing false information on your form) but also simply with appeals to national unity and the collective spirit (e.g. social distancing). Walking into town reminded me of bunking off school; walking towards the centre, maybe for an hour, in the middle of the day, with nothing to do. And when I got beyond the far side of the little local park, I felt similarly rebellious.
Every day is Sunday, a bank holiday weekend that goes on and on. Fewer and fewer people go to work – the factories are going on strike, through unions or wildcats; the government is preparing rescue packages. The question of what socially-necessary work is, and who defines it, was raised very quickly: is a volunteer allowed outside? Why is a car factory important but a car salesroom not? Why are law courts suspended but not call centres? Things are running down to the bare bones: truck drivers, supermarket clerks, postmen, care-workers. Every day brings another question: what if you don’t have a work contract? What if you’re not being paid? It’s all very predictable and intensely, overwhelmingly surprising.
I walked around at 1pm, as the half-day closure came in. People queue outside shops with a metre or two between them, almost like they’re waiting for a bus. I’m certain that there’s a correlation between social class and queue distancing: the more bourgeois the shop, the wider the space. The fishmonger had almost a little crowd (4 people!); the organic food shop had a queue good enough for a ski-lift.
I passed by a friend’s house; she came down and we greeted with raised fists. We sat in the eerily empty piazza outside the courthouse, conversing at a distance of 3 metres. Last time I wrote, there was a friend in preventative quarantine as he’d returned from the North. Now I have plenty of friends who have sniffles and coughs and are locking themselves away. Nearly everyone has had some kind of family argument about who stays where (with parents? Grandchildren? Boyfriend? Alone?).
I dreamt I was down at the homeless shelter, handing over my papers (explaining my reason for being outside) to a young Gambian friend. We both held onto the form, which was covered in mucous; it began to slither up our arms and onto our bodies. In truth, I haven’t been able to go down to the homeless shelter still, instead we’ve written notes and open letters. So many open letters, like a pile of old newspapers in the corner of Miss Havisham’s study. On Monday we wrote letters to the prisoners, and ate pizza together for the last time in who-knows-when, watching the President announce our disbandment.
The deaths are still almost entirely up North. Here in Palermo there are 14 people in hospital. And it’s strange: if it stays like that, we’ll be happy; but if it stays like that, I don’t really know how we’ll explain these days.