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The Year of Living Dangerously

THE WORST thing has not been that we’re cut off from one another, but that we’re cut off from connection altogether. No matter what you’re doing online – celebrating your 25th anniversary as a rock band, like Trinidad’s own Orange Sky on Saturday night, wishing your granny a happy birthday, playing a board game, having sex or screening a documentary, like the Third Horizon Film Festival this weekend – the hard truth is, you’re really doing it alone.

We’ve all done it alone together for a year now.

Children have gone to school and teachers have gone mad, managers have been promoted and weddings have been held back, Courts of Appeal have sat and virtual blind dates have been stood up, patients have revealed all to doctors on smartphones and grandparents have tried to conceal their tears when they see their grandchildren on FaceTime.

Every day has brought renewed hope and a new form of disappointment. You finally have the time to read A Suitable Boy but the concentration span only for Candy Crush. You wake up determined to clean the whole apartment, top to bottom, but you don’t even sort out your sock drawer. You make a resolution to learn Swedish on Duolingo but it turns into binge-watching Bordertown.

We’ve all done our best to fake it but, the truth is, it’s all been fake.

It’s better than nothing.

But not that much.

And you’ve not just been cut off for a year from your own family and friends and co-workers and fellow travellers.

You’re cut off from every-firetrucking-body, even strangers, who are required to stand six feet away from you, everywhere you go (except doubles stands and KFC, for people ignorant and/or hungry enough to go there).

Many of us have not gone to work in a year.

In a real way, we’re virtually in prison.

Just living with the tension of the great unknown has stretched our common patience and added stress to our individual lives.

In an accelerating downward spiral.

There are people you love deeply whom you haven’t talked to, even shallowly, for more than a year. Old uncles are battling cancer and young cousins fighting off depression. Everyone you know is heading for divorce and running away from commitment, gaining weight and losing their minds, raising Cain and falling into despair.

And you don’t know.

If they tried to get it out, to tell you, they would fall apart inside.

And you couldn’t even hug them.

You could only watch it happen and wish it hadn’t.

Or wish you couldn’t see it.

You’ve watched people hope for the vaccine, heard them bawl for open borders, felt their pent-up rage if you got too close physically or emotionally.

You’ll do anything for a laugh.

But you don’t dare laugh too long because you’d laugh until you cried; and, if you only started crying, you know you’d never stop.

What you’re carrying inside yourself, you’re afraid to tell your spouse, in case he or she can’t take it and you really are left all alone (even if you’ve always know that, in the most real sense, you’ve always been all alone).

What your spouse is carrying within, you’re hoping he or she keeps inside or tells their mother, or friends, or God or Facebook.

Once they don’t tell you.

And add to the heavy weight between you that’s dragging you both down.

And will take your children with you all, too.

Even if it’s your anchor. Even if it’s all that’s holding you in place.

This is the worst fear we have: that it could get worse, not better.

This is what we don’t want to think about.

Because thinking about it would make it seem even clearer that Mother Nature could have worked out her own Final Solution to the greatest threat the planet has ever faced.

Us.

You can almost understand the covid-deniers and the anti-vaxxers. Minimising the threat is their whistling in the firetrucking graveyard.

We are desperate for a return to normal.

But the vaccines appear to be getting weaker and the variants, stronger.

And the need for discipline over aerosol transmission has never been greater.

While the political will to make it so has never been weaker.

Governments, like economies, like families, are on the brink of collapsing.

After a year of living so dangerously on the edge of a real precipice, you can understand why no one wants to bring forward what is at the back of everyone’s minds.

If you had to bet your life on it, would you say the next year is going to be better?

And the fact that we all know the answer but no one will say it out loud will make it even worse.

BC Pires is a blind man in the Country of the Cokey-Eyed

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