This is a fictional story of how covid-19 could change society. What futures do you imagine?
It has been two years now. I look outside the window. The wind sweeps over the meadow, further ahead the waves are crashing unto the beach trying to reclaim the bit of land that is there. The kids will have to clean up all the trash that the storm is bringing, I think. I select step outside in my virtual cafe and walk away from the computer, the small corner in this small house I call my queendom. It’s nothing more than a little standing table, books to the left and right, my kids drawing plaster the wall, pictures of my parents and sisters and friends cover the wall. We haven’t hugged each other for years. I mean in real. Putting on the suit and appearing in my mum’s living room is great, but I can’t smell the coffee or taste her food. Correction, I know what I taste and smell is an illusion and the positive mental health effect is wearing off.
The front door opens and my kids tumble in. They went to do the groceries. The bus just dropped them off. Finn, only 16, waves from the bus driver seat. He took over from his dad, once the law came into effect. That fucking law. I despise it. I hate it with every part of my body: No adult outside. Too dangerous. We are spreading the virus. Where possible — the correct word is ‘necessary’ — childhoods have been taken away, replaced with the burden of adulthood: Groceries, shop keeping, teaching, the list goes on. Those deemed mature enough to bare the responsibility, but not frail enough to catch the virus are catapulted into adulthood. The messaging from the government was as clear as the winter air: It’s a badge of honor. The kids beam with pride “We keep the economy going” they say.
I help putting everything away. We’re still out of coffee. It’s not an essential item. Tons of coffee is stored somewhere in France waiting to be shipped to Ireland, but other items go first. Essential items, like potatoes. Oh, I can’t see that vegetable anymore. Why oh why does every dish have to be accompanied with potatoes?
Two years ago we moved from Galway city to this empty piece of land. I made the request to the government which granted it swiftly. No one wants to live here. There is nothing here but rocks and some patchy green. And sheep. The other house was too big, too expensive. The coldness crept into every crack, came in via the old windows and doors. First, the kids hated it. I took them away from their friends. But they enjoy not having to be tested every third day.
Here people look out for each other, there is a sense of community and trust. I’m still locked inside, who knows for how long. But there is something rural Ireland provides that you never would get in a city. Something that might also be missing on mainland Europe. There is a magic in the air, something strange. It comes alive in the twilight and is strong when the wind is strong. A force that tries to destroy everything and reorder the place. On those days, I sneak out in the protection of the dark and go to the beach. We meet there, the adults, far away from the listening ears of the government and enjoy the wind and the sounds and smells of nature. Knowing to well that we have to go inside, that we are endangering the whole country with our selfish act of wanting to be human and feel the earth with our naked feed, the icy water encircling our bodies and taking our breath for a second, the waves over our heads and the shivering cold once we are out again standing on the beach swiftly and silently getting dressed. Still in the pitch black darkness only the Irish wilderness can provide.
Fuck covid-19 I think while walking back home.