Where once there were so many words, now I have only this virus. There can be no shape of newness against it, no one can fall in love, no one can be born, no excitement can be shared – we have only fear, and disbelief, and shame.
I am ashamed.
I tell you, I’ve had the virus – this is the only conversation, the only story, we are allowed – and I say, quietly, I wasn’t tested. But I think I’ve had it.
Your eyebrows go up. I am foolish.
There aren’t enough tests, I say to you. I wasn’t that bad. I didn’t need to go to hospital –
I refuse the story.
It was a bitch, I say, instead.
And you nod, disbelieving, as if I am craving my moment in the toxic sun, rather than sharing a fear that, without document, means nothing.
The words have gone, and in their place we have the graph, and the tweet, and the Facebook update. Being kind to be seen, seen to be kind. A note pushed through the letterbox. Did you buy more than you should? You stocked up on a few things, you say. Nothing too much, but you know –
My lungs were only sick in the dark, so you nod, and you say, oh. Right.
And I have no piece of paper to prove to you that I’m ok, because we are none of us ok, now.
We are afraid.
People do funny things, when they are frightened.
You ask me how long ago I was sick and I frantically count the number of days so I can prove to you I am not harming anyone, there in the street, with four meters between us. You tell me I should have been tested, to know.
I tell you forty thousand people are waiting for a test, right now.
I do not tell you I was frightened to pick up the phone. To dial.
I was ashamed.
I kept it hidden.
The unknown was too big. I still have no words, I want to say. The scramble of lines are too much in my head, they won’t settle – nothing settles. Nothing makes sense, and now –
Now, there is darkness.
I tell you others need the tests – doctors, nurses, they all need the tests.
I hold my shame in the space in my chest, the place that still hurts.
I had the virus, or the not-virus, or the pain, or the breathlessness, or the panic, or the fever –
And now I have the quiet, where I should have words.
Without words, I am nothing. I am the virus