Corona Diaries

Image © Selena Cristo 2020

by Selena Cristo April 6, 2020

Florence, Italy. April 1, 2020.

So I’ve been trying to stay positive. Studying Italian. Working out. Eating healthy. Drinking less. Doing my household chores mindfully. Sprinkling in some Criterion classics with my trashy Netflix binges. It’s been a pretty cozy existence, all told. But going into my fourth week of quarantine it’s been getting harder to ignore the grinding dread that comes of waiting for a terrible blow to fall, a blow that’s still a month or two away from really landing. Scratching beneath the surface of my brittle calm are the questions: will I lose my restaurant? how will I pay my rent? what kind of a world will we be returning to when this is over? how much is this going to suck?

During daylight hours my mood swings between wild, abstract optimism and cold, bottomless dread. At night there is only the latter. Usually when I feel this overwhelmed I find that writing helps. Words gives nebulous fear shape, context, parameters, limitations. Knowing my fear means I can trace the problem to its source. Identify. Rectify. Boom. Nervous breakdown dodged.

But not this time. The more I think about a post-Covid 19 Italy, the more I wonder if perhaps I’m not panicking enough. Maybe I should be using my quarantine time more constructively. Maybe I should be arming myself for this new scary world that awaits (figuratively) instead of watching back to back episodes of Suburra: Blood on Rome (amazing) and wondering what kind of pasta I can make out of the expired food in my fridge.

When writing doesn’t help I turn to my next go-to: uncomplicated nerd entertainment, usually involving some improbable end-of-the-world storyline. A few nights ago it was a toss up between the final two Avengers movies, the first 4 seasons of The Walking Dead or all seven seasons of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I think I made the adult choice.

Somewhere between the end of Infinity Wars and the first half of Endgame I was struck by the symmetry between the movie’s storyline and our current predicament. The sudden upheaval of normal everyday life by a previously unknown enemy. Mighty guardians, entrusted with the safety of the world’s populations, fumbling the rescue. Streets, once teaming with life, now empty and barren. Lives disappearing in staggering numbers overnight. A crisis the best scientific minds and trillions of dollars cannot overcome. I mean, the parallels are crazy similar, right? It’s not just the prosecco talking.

Unfortunately for us, our politicians won’t be able to devise a time machine to go back and fix the havoc created by procrastination and bad choices. No snap is going to return all the grandparents and parents and children and doctors and nurses who have disappeared. And what’s worse, our leaders were never heroes to begin with. Most of them don’t even qualify as decent people. So it’s hard to be optimistic when one is trying to be realistic at the same time.

But hope is human. And I do hope that we acknowledge the fact that our old economic system is deeply flawed and unjust and that we resist the temptation to slap another bandaid on it. I hope it gets replaced by something fair and sustainable, something we can be proud of. On a smaller scale, I hope this time in quarantine gives us the time to know ourselves better and that we can redefine the coordinates of our futures based on this new understanding. Maybe that’s where change starts. Maybe that’s how disaster gets averted. Covid-19 might be an opportunity. Or it might be the end of the world.

I guess we’ll find out.




Selena Cristo is a Canadian living in Florence, Italy for the past 8 years. She runs a small breakfast cafe called Le Vespe which she opened in 2013 with her Italian business partner Gaia Tilli. 


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