In the Time of Corona 3: Silence

The foxes are yelling. The neighbours let out the bath water at the same time as me. But no cars. No planes. The lockdown is coming; the schools are closed now (but my daughter decided this morning that she couldn’t go to school. I could not have forced her, not with the safety of everyone else at school in mind) and soon we will be required by law to stay at home.

The silence has come. Eastenders has stopped filming. There is no Eurovision song contest. No plays performed, no orchestras filling halls with people rustling their sweet wrappers in the moment before the downbeat. This withdrawing is painful, and the silence in central London is both thrilling and terrifying. What fills that silence? Opportunistic crime? Internal mourning?

The silence is also the premonition of death. The very fact that London will soon be under lockdown is because the deaths have outpaced the models. The hospitals are full, and the doctors are struggling. I read the Imperial paper too, and I can see myself, my neighbourhood, on that curve.

Southwark has the most (recorded) cases in the country, and it looks from the numbers (as I understand) that the doubling of the case rate is happening within 48 hours. Mathematically speaking that is f**ing terrifying. I hope my math skills are poor and the reality is not that the healthcare system is already dangerously overloaded and about to collapse.

The silence is an oddity in this busy place. It seems almost shocking. I want to write that it bodes ill, because it does. Because being locked down without people, without song, without solidarity is dangerous. However, the silence is also a space for something else to grow. We stay away, stay in, stay quiet as a huge effort to spare those we love. Our neighours, our friends, our people.

And we hope. We hope that out of the silence will emerge a quieter life, an easier life. This is my hope, although so far I feel far from being able to achieve it.