COVID-19... The word that strikes fear and nausea in one's mind and burrows a dark void in the soul. Also known as the 'pandemic', the one that has separated families, kindled anger and the fear of the unknown, and has taken away so many lives. When I look through my bedroom window, I lay my eyes on the road that hasn't listened laughter for a while, there were still the street-lamps, persistently sparkling into the night. It was as in the event that they essentially adore to share that golden gleam, regardless of if anybody appreciates it. The street itself has that loved and homey appearance, the activity of decades having passed over it. This was a road where genuine life had been, the turning of skipping ropes and screeches of children had grown up each year, once ridden four-wheelers to starting collage. Dogs barking in the distance, and party music beating within the corner house with swarms of cars stopped along the sidewalks with no gap in between them. But now… all I listen is silence, pure stillness within the air, as in case the world has paused for a minute to breathe. I would let my eyes and heart touch each place I have a chance to reach out to and investigate. Back in early 2020, I had thought maybe this abandonment and nightmare was a brief thing, just a passing cloud, and the bliss and enthusiasm would return to its formal shape. But I had been wrong. Quarantine life sometimes suffocates me. I never really liked to stay in one place, and yearned to go outside any time I got the opportunity. I started to isolate myself, and to which I feel like I've fallen into a deep pit where I might never rise up again. It feels like a dark place without any source of lumination. It's like sitting in a room at night by yourself and feeling like this is the forever of life. It's like being in middle of a thousand people but feeling invisible to each one of them. It's like strolling on a path without any directions, without any idea where it might lead you. But then something just suddenly inside me something clicked… like a missing piece of a jigsaw puzzle that finally fits. It felt like a spark of aspiration. I have started to read eBooks since COVID-19 has hit because all the libraries have closed, and while I read, I think about how I myself could start writing. It felt like a tough mountain to climb with so many ditches and steep cliffs, but with a positive persona I just might be able to overcome almost anything. I cradle my Macbook in my hands, feeling it warm up between the cracks of my fingers. I turn it on, as the dim bluish yellow light floods the monotone room. I wrap my arms around myself and ponder over what my first word might be. I start to write mere words into a blank document. I can feel the words just dancing in my head like ballerinas. My eyes fly to each word I type, and even when my fingers felt sore, the words didn't stop flowing. Some days aren't the same. I sometimes get writer's block but a few days later I'm back at it, flying from one key to another, smiling when I get something right, and frowning when some words don't seem to fit it. It almost became part of me; of my life more better put. COVID-19 has taught me so much. How to be a better person. How to survive isolation and remaining sandwiched between four walls. To realize that the world is independent as much as we all need each other during times of need. To find that inner passion hidden inside me. And… To know that I'm not alone… we all face troubles in life… and it's our duty to help each other out. To make someone smile. To discover new friends through writing. To make video calls with friends around the globe who I might have never met if I hadn't been in quarantine. COVID-19 might have made our life terrible but... I embraced it simply as a hurdle that life throws just to make me prepared for what might be coming. I got to spend so much time with my family, that sometimes I can't wait to get back to school! But it was still great to help with the chores, and seeing everyone cuddle up on the sofa with a bowl of aromatic popcorn and a spine-tingling movie. I also got to visit my cousins who I haven't seen for 2 years, and it was always fun to see more people. I also understand that when we take simple things for granted, we realize their importance when we don't have them. Some may think this is maybe just a killing wave... a virus. But it's just a life lesson we all need to learn, accept and move on. I believe no one is ever going to forget this for years to come and it teaches us to be kind, giving and most of all... be happy with what you have. You could say we all have a story to tell our future generation about how we stayed strong during these difficult times and managed to see it pass us, with us holding a cup of victory. We will never get though this with hatred and violence but kindness and compassion.
With a surgical turn of my wrist, I position the front-facing camera so that the end of the world is in full view. I'm in the center of the frame, standing in a polished kitchen, glazed with perfume and peach powders. It's the second month of quarantine. The once-warm tones of my apartment now smear together like the gooey brushstrokes of Edvard Munch, but I think my scream is quieter than the one he painted; it melts behind my chest, stretching out a single thought: I am so damn lonely. I dab my phone's flat screen to take the picture. It shows me pulling a bottle of wine close, but I never actually opened it. A book I read years ago sits on the countertop, as if I bothered to give its pages another glance tonight. I've tricked myself into appearing happy enough, so I post the image to my online profile with a leisurely caption. The next morning, I decide to seek a little company. The coffee shop is open for take-out. I brush my hair back and withdraw from the wilting walls of my cell. The coil of cars at the drive-thru roll along steadily. I start to picture what sort of bodies are packed in each vehicle. I see a van, probably stuffed with kids, and a father with scratchy eyes. I imagine that it's a couple waiting in the blue sedan a few cars back. He props his head on his partner's shoulder reading aloud from a brochure for the next vacation they'll take. A bundle of scarves is driving the Buick. I wonder how she putters about at home, ticking her evenings away. What might she have said to me last night? “Nonsense!” I bet. “It's nonsense for you to be spending so much effort on another lousy portrait. Wash your face. Call your mother.” I feel calm in my little community. It's a pity to have to inch ahead, only to vanish again in the neutral tones of isolation: pandemic news, boredom with marriage, collapse into childcare, delays at work, and the dense nothing for the rest of us. Once I reach the shop's window, my face inflates with such joy, the barista's eyebrows pop upward. She recites my order and says it'll be ready in a minute. “Sounds good! And how are you...‘Jasmine'? Any plans for the weekend?” I can tell she's smiling behind her facemask by the way her eyes crease. “Not much. Not sure what I can do.” “Pick up another hobby, I guess.” She laughs and agrees. There's a pause while she tilts out of view and returns with my drink. “Here you are!” she announces. I take it, thank her, and pull forward. I approach the exit lane, I have a sip, and then—I decide to tug the steering wheel right and snap my car into a parking space. I forgot to tip. I slip on a facemask I had tossed in the center console, swing open the door, and march to the drive-thru window. Jasmine pokes her head out when I get there. “Is something wrong?” I stuff my hand in my pocket and pull out a couple of bills. “I didn't leave a tip.” Jasmine bounces back. “Oh!” her eyes go round. “That's very kind of you!” Nervous now, I quickly cram the cash in the small container perched on the sill and hold my hand up to wave “goodbye” as I peel away. There are just a handful of paces left until I reach my car. After each step, my sneaker skips off the pavement. For a moment, I'm expanding. My gaze slides left and right, skimming for anyone who might be looking for a greeting. The apartment building is just seven minutes away. It's been a small day. Still, a good one.
https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLOCBDr5JWZH9-7K6zAfbOHWR0MCFf4CXc. This is a playlist with specific songs that I have chosen for you to listen to while you read my story. Enjoy :) You are here, in your room, sitting in front of your laptop watching some stupid TikTok videos, sometimes laughing and sometimes just with a poker face. You look through the terribly dusty window on which the sunbeams fall and what do you see? Some people may say that they don't see anything because there are no people, though, look at the trees, how tall and strong and powerful they are. Look at the leaves, have you ever seen them so green? No artist can ever depict such art on their canvas. Now ask yourself: did nature look so delightful, so colourful when there were so many people outdoors? Did it look like that? I guess you didn't remember because you were busy hanging out with your friends, huh? Had good times with them, I believe discussing some boyish or girlish stuff. I am sure you liked it. I am sure you want to experience the same but were you grateful for what you had and are you grateful for what you have now? Do you think that you lived those days correctly? Think before you answer. Everything happens for a reason. One day you woke up and realized that you can't go out: no more boring physics classes with fatty Mr Pinchpockaley who has a torn pocket on his beige suit, no school community workdays for taking care of the school gardens, no school at all. Seems like you shouldn't be sad about this, you didn't have fun there. You loved the late-night parties, drunk kisses with random people. You liked running away from your house, ignoring your parents, ignoring that they could be worried about you, you just didn't care...You cared about friends or better to say “toxic people”, who made you as much toxic as they are. You liked gossiping, laughing at others, especially Dorothy Angelson from your chemistry class. She is a nerd, she is so smart, and it always made you angry. Though you remember your small garden in front of your house, where you and Dorothy were taking care of flowers. -One day, when we grow up, we gonna take care of all flowers all over the world! -Yes! We will take care of all flowers and trees all over the world! (hug) -Dorothy, you are my best friend! -You are my best friend, too, Melly! You want her back. She was always there for you, you want back your dreams. You are lying there in your bad, in your headphones, ignoring the daily news about thousands of people who die every day because of the disease. You don't know what you gonna do for the next 24 hours, you don't know when the quarantine will end, you have no clue how you gonna stay indoors, you are lost. You feel like you are out of your mind, you feel like this is not your life. Suddenly, after 6 hours that you've spent in your room, thinking about those last 2 years, wondering whether you've lived them correctly or not, you hear a knock. -Honey, the dinner is ready. You feel bad because you don't remember when you had dinner with your parents for the last time. Downstairs you heard the smell of freshly roasted chicken with french fries and your favourite salad. In 5 minutes when you began eating your chicken, you realized, how much you have missed, and you just couldn't keep those tears anymore… After long hugs and kisses and apologies, you enjoyed your meal, helped your mom with the dishes. That day you finally found yourself and realized how much you've missed your parents. When you entered your room, you whispered: -I am back… You knew what you must do next -- get Dorothy back. You've spent a great deal of time searching for a good present for her. There was nothing until you went to the garden in front of your house and saw the flowers you and Dorothy took care of… you have never seen them so pretty. -Wow, seems like nature had to have a rest from people… After gathering the flowers, you put on that uncomfortable mask which covered your favourite dark purple lipstick and ran out of your house. In five minutes, you were in front of Dorothy's house door, and it opened. -I miss you Dor… Sorry for what I've done… I miss you so much. You cried a lot and very loud as if you needed it so much. -You know, I believe that this quarantine was just meant to be. I found myself! Dor, I am back! Dorothy was silent for a couple of seconds, then she said. -Wanna me to show you the book I got? It's about the correct way of taking care of flowers and trees. -Yes, Dor, I'd love to… She hugged you so tightly, and you both cried.. Sitting there alone in your room made you think, made you be alone with yourself and realize that you must take actions, you must fix your young teenage mistakes, and you did it… Sometimes staying all alone with themselves, people may start looking at everything from different angles and perspectives. Sometimes a long silence is needed to fully understand who we are.
As you float stranded in the middle of the ocean, no one else in sight. Locked away from the outside world, prohibited accesses to any face to face contact. Alone. Drowning in a body of water as reckless waves continue to push you further down in the darkness. We lived what felt like normal life onshore, in the sand, no water nearby. Going to school five days a week, partaking in sporting events and extracurriculars, working a 9-5 job on the weekends to make a little extra money. We lived our normal life. Until everyone was unexpectedly thrown into the ocean, the waves from the water were fun at first. We'd only be in the water for a short time, vacation at most, a break from reality. It would all be done soon enough and life would return to our normal. But, as countless days passed, we began to feel isolated in the middle of the ocean. Nowhere to go and no new surroundings to see. As we roll into week 17 of our so-called “vacation”, we are drowning. The water begins pulling us in deeper and deeper down, drowning in nothing but our own thoughts and emotions. Mental health issues strick an ultimate high with 45% more people now struggling with these issues because of this ocean. As we take our last breath of normal life, the water drags us down into a dark, unknown place. Depression, anxiety, substance abuse, comes crashing down on us like the waves of the ocean eliminating our ability to even grasp a breath of our passed normal life. The waves continue to pummel in, one after another, crashing down harder by the second. Unemployment, increase in COVID numbers, even the death of loved ones, all strike you further down into the water. You are now the farthest down in the dark you've even been. Experiencing thoughts like never before. Just you, alone, in the middle of the bottom of the ocean, no grasp of what it feels like to breathe normal air. Day by day new waves push you down more into the dark waters but you are not even affected anymore. You don't struggle, don't try to even attempt to not sink down. You go into the darkness making no effort to fight the pain of drowning. Some days you get pushed onto the shore, a little light in your life. Life feels so surreal, there is not a worldwide pandemic, but instead just you and your best friend. A taste of what normal life once felt like, a day outside with friends, funny jokes with your mom, finally finishing that show you binge-watched, but no matter how hard you try to stay in that moment forever. How hard you fight back to get your normal again the waves always will pull you back into the water. Bring you back down into that darkness of the ocean, alone, again. As you reach the surface of the water you can see the horizon, you can see normal life again. The life that we took for such guaranteed but would do anything to be able to breathe a single breath of that normal life just once. But the uncertainty strikes your eyes like fear. Having absolutely no idea when you will be able to reach that horizon? How far away it is? When will life every be so-called normal again? When will we be able to make it back to the horizon? But you have to continue to swim to try to make it there, day by day, because no matter the uncertainty, we will make it to that horizon. No matter how long it takes or what roadblocks come your way, eventually, you will. You will make it to that horizon. Be able to breathe than normal air, onshore, with no waves to pull you into that darkness that once overtook your mind. Eventually, we will be normal again, do not let the fear and uncertainty overcome the optimism.
I've always been creative and loved making something with my own hands. My speciality was handmade cards, that everyone was just delighted with. I made them in a unique way - I probably put in them more of my childlike soul than I could bear. Everyone always said that my postcards have some kind of special power to instantly warm the soul and cheer up the person. People valued them more than any other purchased postcard or gift, which gave me great pleasure. It was more than just a hobby for me - I lived by it. While making a postcard, I always imagined how joyful the person I would give it to would feel. But at some point it all had stopped. I was involved in professional sports and I didn't have enough time for anything extra. It coincided with me being in my teens, so, naturally, I was not thinking about the design and contents of postcards. My head was occupied with myself and my future. This year, around mid-March I was in extreme anxiety because of a summative assignment of mine in physics. Why was I agitated? Because I was in 10th grade, which meant that I was just a year away from college enrollment and I ought to have excellent grades for my GPA. At that fertile days when life was in full swing, streets were changing from buoyant to sleepy, but have never stopped, my thoughts were the same, same mad and incessant. My head was stuck with a myriad of “to do” lists. My life was in a constant motion and rush that I even forgot to keep contact with my relatives that I don't see that often. It can be bizarre, but my neighbors are my relatives: my grandma, uncle, auntie and little cousin who live just a floor above. Unbeknownst to me, I stopped caring about people close to me like I did in childhood, when I wanted to make everyone happy. All of a sudden, everything changed. My uncle suddenly got sick and despite our high hopes, he was diagnosed with COVID-19 and there was no room for him in the hospital. He was told to go to IVs every morning and isolate himself from everyone. Fortunately, their family had just bought a new apartment, a floor below ours, and my uncle moved in there so as not to infect his family. Thus, he was left all alone, sick, in a freshly bought, unequipped and lonely apartment. My uncle is a very reserved man by nature. If I ever ask him how he is doing and add a multitude of emojis to the message, he would reply with a dry "I'm okay" at best, but in most cases he simply may not answer. Therefore, when he fell ill, no matter how much I texted him, he wouldn't answer, since he was far from the phone. At those dreadful moments I didn't think about anything except my uncle. I didn't know how to help him. I felt like a child again with a deep desire to somehow mitigate his pain, suffering and loneliness. And it was then that I remembered about my childhood passion - making special postcards that have the unique power to emotionally heal and make people feel warmth, thereby showing that I'm close, although, in fact, I'm not. So, I cooked my uncle's favorite dish, laid it out in different plastic food containers and pasted animal-shaped stickers with warm wishes on each one. Then I went downstairs to hang a bag of food on the front door handle and in a second I was already back home. I couldn't believe it, but the next day, when my mother brought the containers back, my stickers were still there, but on the adhesive side there was something scribbled down: “Thank you. I hope you will bring me lunch every day.” With a smiley face at the end. But I understood that it was not about food. Since then, every day has passed like this: I left notes on food containers for my uncle, but now I received the notes back with a grateful response, and I definitely felt warmth and reciprocity from them. Fortunately, my uncle recovered soon after. I felt that I recovered with him, namely, it seemed the deceased childlike part of me was reborn. Thanks to that child's innocence, eagerness to help, devoid of any anger and negativity, everyone smiled and felt their problems alleviated, even just for a moment. I realized that our fast evolving world tempts us to chase after everything new and trendy and beckons us with its mellifluous scent so that we set the wrong priorities in life and forget about the most important things. I now definitely know that I'll continue my special “business” of making my unique postcards and teach this extraordinary art to my children. Behind that childish hobby is hidden a true path to salvation from the present, which intoxicates us and makes us completely forget about past values. Thus, a sudden outbreak of a terrible disease, no matter how contradictory it may sound, saved both my uncle and me. It dawned on me that my WhatsApp messages would never be deposited in my uncle's head, but something will remain in his heart for life: he'll always remember my notes on food containers, endowed with hope for salvation and happiness.
The sudden snap of loneliness seems to leech the very warmth out of the air. With a silence louder than the genial laughter and chatter that blasted through my laptop speakers mere seconds ago, it creeps back in, reacquints itself with the corners of my living room and settles. I make a mental note to call a friend later, chase it away again albeit only for a short while. Sighing heavily, I sink into the cushions of my sofa, the overly familiar feel of foam squares yielding to my weight. The laptop still rests precariously on my crossed legs -my ever attentive ally against confinement-induced insanity. My faithful assistant in study and work, my communication portal to the world outside my little apartment. A lifeline and a curse. For months now, all I've had to show for a life once lived has been stretched across thirteen inches of pixelated nothingness. Technology is a wonderful thing but even this apex of modern human endeavour cannot replicate the hug of a relative, the playful shove of a friend or the kiss of a lover. And for me, an island to myself without a house full of people who would turn out to be strangers after months of finally learning about one another, the absence is so sharp it cuts me to the quick. Yet . . . It's not enough. A call, a Zoom date, letters flitting across a screen. If anything, the much-lauded tool for connection only serves to amplify the distance it supposedly breaches. Phone calls ring hollow, video ones glitch and shudder, always leaving the participants a beat out of sync with each other and messages require the use of emojis to feel any shade less impersonal. And still, despite this, each attempt at communication only delivers the shadow of company. Only now, in the midst of a nationwide lockdown do I realise the wraith-like quality of our modern communication forms. Only now that I have no human contact do I distinguish between the virtual and the real and just how precious the latter is. How, in our fast-paced lives we take for granted the ability to co-exist in shared time and space. A tad melodramatic? Perhaps. Quarantine has not been kind to my penchant for overthinking. But the longer I sit here, smothered in my couch and eager to head out for food supplies if only to be within greeting range of another human being, I find myself coming to the same conclusion. When did we merge the personal with the artificial? When did the organic mesh with the mechanical to such an extent that pre-Pandemic us, us ungrateful techno-abusers would feed our addiction even in the presence of other living, breathing, feeling people. Phones had become a fixture, perhaps even a third party participant in every interaction. And now they take center stage, fully commanding the space they once peripherally occupied. I place the device aside, getting up to stretch my limbs and pace about the little space for the umpteenth time. I've never been a particularly outdoors-y person. But the urge to frolic amongst variable shades of green or to sleep beneath an open, star-flecked sky has been gnawing at my conscience for weeks now. I wonder why it took a dramatic roll of fate's dice to bring out such strange longing. Why it took the world to shut down for the true appreciation of such simple wonders to be appreciated once more. When did we become content with so little? When did once-in-a-lifetime moments become opportunities for snap shots and videos, archiving the occurence at the expense of full experience? How did squares of metal manage to enchant us so to maintain our undivided attention for hours at a time? I mentally chide myself, stern resolve determing a course of life that will actually be living once I'm set free from this box. I know it will not last. Once the calamity is lifted and earth's rotation reset again, things will go back to how they were before, within a more broken world. After all . . . We've become accustomed to our glass boxes and technological self-quarantine. The former most do not even notice. The latter is one I doubt most would mind maintaining. Sighing, I retrieve my phone from my pocket and head back to the sofa.
Is it a good morning today? Is It a bad morning? Is it going to rain? What time is it?... Questions once simple to answer… But the lockdown has given a new meaning to them. It is indifferent to us if it is going to rain today. All days look alike. Some nights the shadows on the balconies seemed so alive, dancing in a waltz with no faces. Is this an illusion? Is this situation of isolation a new truth? Total silence of the night and the lights are off. People behind the closed curtains of the neighborhood, say goodnight in silence. Is this an illusion? Today's truth has become a conventional obligation that challenges you. Is freedom an illusion? Try to find the meaning of it in books and articles of yesterday. Maybe you will not find it anymore. The truth of today is totally different. Masks are thrown on the sidewalk and time and space become vague concepts. Once being social, now you keep ‘Social Distancing'. The new social norm. Your freedom has terms and conditions. Its illusionary and vague. You can keep what's positive from the new ‘truth' and discard the ‘negative' burden. Maybe it is all a game that we need to win, and remember the words of Anton Chekhov, that “the illusion which exalts us is dearer to us than ten thousand truths.”
When the Covid-19 Coronavirus started in Nigeria, I was leaving Kano State with my dad. We had gone for his eye treatment at ECWA Hospital, and spent more than two weeks there. Few days after we left, Kano State experienced an unprecedented increase in the number of Covid-19 cases across the State. The hospital we left had to shut their doors, so as not to risk the well-being of patients that came for their eye checkup. In fact, States across Nigeria closed down their borders few days after we made it back home. It was a mayhem. Most times, when I think about our " lucky escape", and the turnout of events, I just know that we were really lucky and fortunate. Back home, we had to engage in all the precautionary measures as directed by the health authorities. Dad was recovering, and so it was a very sensitive time for everyone. All hands were on deck. Yes, we were keeping safe for ourselves. But more importantly, we were doing it for my father. And the reason was quite obvious. His health wasn't a hundred percent, and that means that any contact with the Coronavirus will have a devastating effect on him. On my part, I had to reduce my outdoor activities and work from home. It was quite challenging for me, because as a journalist, most of my work was done outside the house. But just like everyone else, I had to improvise. Thank goodness for the internet, I had to leverage the online space to conduct interviews, research, have meetings and even publish my articles. I even got to meet more people and engaging leads to work on after the stay at home experience. The whole stay at home experience gave me the ample opportunity to appreciate the little things of life and also to read more and watch what I eat. I had to look at my vision board and projections for the year, and even had to work on my podcast more. It just seems as if I was given a grand opportunity to get my house in order. Meanwhile, the virus was still ravaging different States across Nigeria, and people were dying in numbers. Most of us had to stay indoors because people were not following the precautionary measures by health authorities, and also, most States across the country lacked the equipment to test residents. So, it was far better to be safe than sorry. Many people refused to follow the figures by the national health authorities because for some of them, they are yet to see anyone killed by the Coronavirus. I lost an uncle to the virus. He was buried on June 26, 2020. He was a spectacular person, and I miss the way he genuinely listens to you when you're speaking to him. In fact, I miss his positive outlook on life. When he took ill, everyone thought it was the usual Malaria or typhoid. It was not until he started showing symptoms of the virus that everyone became genuinely concerned. Before his death, his lungs collapsed, and he was practically gasping for his last breath. These days, when I think about him, all I can remember is his warm smile and his positive energy towards life, living and spreading happiness. He once told me to live very intentionally and make an impact, even if it's just in the life of one person. I guess he was indirectly talking to himself, because his life is an inspiration to me, and I got to learn a lot from him. These days, when I look at how fast the year is running, I also remember that I have lit up the path for others to find their way. The Virus may have made all of us stay in doors at some point, but then again, it didn't stop media professionals from doing the needful. One of the proud moments I had during the lockdown was when I worked with a lady who is into digital literacy in her community. Due to the pandemic, her work became very important because people began to depend on the online space to get gigs, have meetings and even make sales. It was a humbling experience for me to share her stories, experiences and knowledge. In fact, my work with her renewed my faith in humanity and our ability to keep pushing, even in the midst of challenges. I may not know when this pandemic will come to an end. But just like everything else humans have faced over the years, we shall overcome. Impossible is nothing.