Corona Diaries: The Circle Inside

Image © Viola Nordsieck 2020

by Viola Nordsieck March 18, 2020

My windows are draughty. I always feel I am heating the universe when I try to get our flat warm. The old building is beautiful, high ceilings and dense spiderwebs in all those corners where I do not reach and almost never sweep. Maybe once or twice since we moved in I have stood on a ladder trying to get at the webs up in the corners, but mainly I leave them be. We like spiders. We like spiders and high ceilings and even the draught that sneaks across our wooden floors.

My child’s head is heavy and warm against my arm while I write. He is cuddling up on the sofa beside me, under a chequered blanket, he has pulled his red hood over his head and the sweet face and polished brown hair against my arm look the picture of health, or maybe a little feverish, a little flushed, but that is only from running, for sure. Maybe from the sun.

“When you are writing mama it looks like the letters turn up on the screen from nothing, out of a black hole,” he says. “I love to watch that.”

He cuddles closer which makes it quite hard to write because my arms are pressed against my body. I feel his lovely weight intensely, alive, wonderful, I can touch him and hear his brother’s voice from the other room, happily playing. The world is fine, enclosed here with me, nothing bad can happen to us. I still check his temperature.

“Wouldn’t it be a joke if I were the first Corona child,” he says.

In this moment I feel one thought so intensely I am a little shaken by it: my children are so protected, loved so much, although they have a lot of little troubles and their parents don’t live together and I sometimes scream at them and slam doors which I am so very sorry for every time but not sorry enough somehow to never, ever do it again. Still they feel so safe and happy as the centre of the universe that they do not believe for a second they might be hurt. And I wish so much it could just stay that way.

When I think of other people suffering and dying, my mind goes blank. On some level, although I have seen what it can be like – not often, only once – I do not believe this really happens. But I know it does and the little girl who died in the fire on Lesbos made me cry hot angry tears, late in the evening when the children are in bed, the flat is dark and sleepy and I am sitting with my book in a little circle of light and eat something I should not eat and then I am very tired and think I have all the symptoms especially in my throat and feel sorry for myself. In those moments I cannot really handle that people are suffering just now and trying to draw breath in terrible fear. The defences sag and I start to believe there is death, and remember there is pain, and fear.

It is all very different in the morning. We do not feel that we cannot go outside, as long as we keep our distance from people, and the weather is splendid. So when we sleep-in because there is no school and I do some work for the university with my first coffee in the morning sun and the children are playing after their breakfast, looking forward to going outside, it is very hard to believe there is anything going wrong. People still walk the streets. Apart from the very long queues in the supermarket and there being no milk after nine o’clock in the morning and people wanting to hug and then do a prayer bow instead or touch elbows and laugh, you would never notice any difference around our home. So in the morning when the day is bright, the spirits in our little circle are running high. We talk to the children’s father on the phone and joke about whether we should be quarantined together, should the worst come to the worst.

“Seriously though,” I insist. “Would one of us go without the children in a lockdown? I wouldn’t. Should we even be locked in together? Wouldn’t that be weird?”

He just laughs and we arrange our next meeting then he asks, “Have you talked to your mother today?”

The funny thing about a virus is, obviously, that it does get inside. I think about the vampire that cannot get in uninvited, the vague threatening presence lurking behind your window which remains closed, even if it does not lock properly because it is old. Still the evil things cannot get in and we are safe. I can hold the warm body of my child, feel his life in my arms and know he is fine, I can hear the happy singing voice of my other child just a small distance away and know he is fine. We are in the comforting circle of our home where nothing can get at us. Except from the inside. Those tiny things with spikes that are supposed to look like crowns, they do not wait for an invitation. And even if they are already in here with us, we would not know. But still, our time here is ticking away happily while other people die, outside the circle.

How are we going to live, inside ourselves?

My child has been fooling around with his huge blue cookie monster and pulling at its protruding eyes. He is finally out of patience with me tapping away on the keyboard and making letters appear from nothing. “Can I play chess now,” he asks and shoves me a little, so I finally get off the computer.
Viola Nordsieck is a freelance philosopher and journalist training as a teacher. She holds a PhD from Humboldt University. Her next book is a collective work coming out this year, “Kultur und Politik des prekären Lebens: Solidarität unter Schneeflocken” (Neofelis Verlag Berlin).

She lives in the district of Friedrichshain in Berlin, Germany.

Read her story The Sad and Serious Story of Janet here.

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