As Coronovirus sweeps across the globe I was expecting to be a gibbering wreck by now, barricaded in an underground shelter, whittling crude spears from fallen tree branches to hunt mutant rabbits as the world collapsed around me. I thought my OCD would be clocking into the tooth factory early, putting in overtime, convincing me that every little twinge in my body was the start of the virus which would mutate in my blood and kill me on the spot. Remembering when AIDS jumped out of its box in the 1980’s – I was sure I’d contracted the disease by sharing a can of coke in the school playground.
OCD has never urged me to wash my hands compulsively. I fear disease, almost every day I convince myself I have an incurable illness of some sort, but contamination through germs on dirty door handles has never been an issue for me. Covid-19 hasn’t changed that. I’ve been worrying about my family of course, trying not to let my OCD twist the facts, batting images out of my head, knocking tennis balls over the garden wall – swatting flies again, like most days. As for worrying about contracting the virus myself, my head has been more interested in mutating ten year old conversations that I’m not sure ever happened in the first place. Funny what OCD focuses on, how it grabs hold and doesn’t let go. Why fret about becoming a deadly pandemic statistic when I can spend my time worrying about fake memories and irrelevant shopping lists instead. Although I have been worrying about other illnesses. Cancer and sepsis. I’ve had kidney pain, and am currently on antibiotics, and Crow has strapped a few of his grim opinions to those bouncing tennis balls. “Your body is shutting down! Your organs are going to explode! Why worry about Covid-19 when your arteries are pumping poison into your heart!” etc etc…
We made it back from Southport, but the current situation forced us to return early from a job in Leamington Spa. We believe we’ll also be aborting a planned house-sit in New Mexico in June. That’s almost guaranteed. We were going back on a plane again, promising ourselves that it would be different from our other international jaunts, less shabby backpack, more suitcase on wheels. We agreed that sleeping on train station floors would be prohibited, same rules for supermarket car parks, and beneath shelves of engine oil in South African petrol stations of course.
We spent a night in London to get an early start for our interview at the U.S embassy, and were delighted when we were approved for a six month visa. We began searching for flights but quickly turned away to face the wall as airports across the globe began to close. We’d been so close to being on the interstate, we could almost taste the asphalt. Of course, we can’t complain, the entire world is suffering head-shots and ricochets from this damned virus.
“But why run away again?” asked Uncle Jack, wizened features shimmering in my memory.
The weather is a lot nicer in New Mexico than it is in the U.K – walking a dog is more pleasurable in the sunshine. It could be as simple as that. Anyway, the virus eating the world seems to have stopped it spinning, and here we all are in quarantine, with time on our hands to reflect on the universe and beyond – which is not so good for someone with OCD. Sitting in a box, day after day, chewing my fingernails wondering what is happening to the world. Who am I? Who the f**k is Alice? Who are all those toilet-roll panic buyers at the supermarket? It appears the monsters in our closets may have been us all along. I continued with my self assessment…
I was a pillock at school, and for the first few years of unemployment and work, I continued to fit snugly into this bracket, too afraid to make a serious challenge for anything other than the next stupid prank, sauntering along the path hurling cream pies at my own face, laughing like a maniac so people wouldn’t hear me scream. High on horseplay and high jinks, I suppose. A case could certainly be put forward that I’m still a pillock. Looking back I blame OCD, but it doesn’t matter why I was the person I was, just that I was that person. No excuses, just a cold hard fact, like a ship crumpling into an iceberg. Who put that there? Was the captain drunk? It doesn’t really matter, just lower the f**king lifeboats before we all drown.
Who am I now? Like quantum mechanics it all depends where you’re standing – who am I pretending to be? What’s my environment? What do I need to do to survive until bedtime? And do any of us know who we really are? And does it really matter? I remember a conversation with Uncle Jack while cleaning spilled paint off the factory floor.
“If you could choose a superpower, what would it be?” I asked.
“I’d like the ability to get into someone else’s head and read their thoughts, because then I’d know everything!” He grumbled, rinsing his mop in the plastic bucket.
I told him I’d choose invisibility, but was secretly impressed with the answer he’d given me.
One thing I’m certain of is our anxieties would be similar. If any of us fell into shark infested waters, surely the fear of being eaten alive would be identical?
“Same same but different,” someone once said to me in Thailand. I even bought the t-shirt.
But who the f**k is Alice?
She’s me, and I’m you, and I don’t care if the man on the pub door is built like an M1 Abrams tank, I’m certain he doesn’t want to be eaten alive by that razor toothed shark. Nobody wants Covid-19. Our anxieties may be similar, it’s just how we handle them, if we can handle them at all. So does it really matter who we are? Not really. Just try not to hurt anybody else as you go about your business and surely, by default, that already makes you a decent human being. I don’t know who Alice is, but so long as she’s living her life as best she can, and not stealing all the toilet rolls, I really don’t care.
My advice for the anxious like me? Wash your hands before you bite your fingernails.
And stay safe!