Compulsory Confinement

By Irina Pino

Photo: Aurora Uribe

HAVANA TIMES – Writing about the pandemic that is sweeping across our world, is a compulsory subject of conversation. Watching and listening to the news has become a horror show. If we had a well-stocked cupboard, everything would be different, with our stomachs full and entertainment to distract us from misfortune if only for a brief moment.

This is what happened in the Decameron tales, by Giovanni Boccaccio, where characters take refuge outside of the city of Florence during the Bubonic plague epidemic, and spend their time telling risqué stories about sexual adventures. A terrible coincidence as Italy is one of the countries that has been hardest hit by the scythe that is Coronavirus.

Self-isolation hasn’t been so hard for some people, it has become a productive time. In Cojimar, Nike makes puppets and rattles out of seashells. She is now sewing masks for her friends and neighbors. Every morning, she works in her garden, which is full of fruit trees and ornamental plants; she waters and transplants herbs, she finds solace in her small piece of Nature.

Kay makes “dreamcatchers”, these beautiful decorations that are hung in doorways. They both have cats and dogs that they lovingly look after. Love unites these two sisters, who don’t see each other, but speak with their cellphones. Ariel, Nike’s husband, is the one who goes out and does the grocery shopping for both homes.

When speaking to Kay on the phone, the subject inevitably comes up and she admits that speaking about the virus depresses her, she feels weak as if she is going to faint. That’s a panic attack, I tell her. We are all afraid, terror has been sown on the island.

In my case, I try and avoid leaving the house if I don’t need to, but when I do, I’ve felt overcome by a feeling of fragility the entire time I’m on the street. I want to get home as soon as I can, as if it were my fortress.

There is a silver lining to all of this though: I have read news articles about wild animals roaming highways and streets freely. Meanwhile, I have seen dolphins and swans in Venice’s canals. Are they trying to catch humans’ attention so that we don’t continue to exterminate them with our food industry? So that we leave their skin alone? So that we let them live in harmony with Nature, which is something humankind hasn’t done in many decades?

I am active right now. I’m writing a new book and it will have my own reflections about this dark time, of course.

Will we survive this nightmare to tell its story? This reminds me of “The War of the Worlds”, by Herbert G. Wells. Although, at least the frightening aliens were visible in that book.

2 thoughts on “Compulsory Confinement

  • Irina touched a chord in me when she wrote: “If we had a well stocked cupboard, with our stomachs full…” Having had to leave our home in Cuba, I have now been in sole isolation for three weeks, but with a well stocked large ‘fridge and one of my daughters doing my weekly shopping. Whereas my wife at home in Cuba is struggling to get sufficient food and to keep social spacing when having to leave the house. That is a stark and troubling difference about which i am powerless to do anything.

  • “Cada cerebro es un mundo.” And old say I remember from my relatives from Cuba mostly deceased now.

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