“Just be glad you were in bed, where the cries of love drown out the screams of the corpses.”—Louise Glück, Hunters
The streets are nearly empty on this sunny day, and quiet too, except for ravens building their nests above Father Kelly's house. A bell tolls, and the church door is flung open, but no congregants appear. Then two teenage girls round a corner and lope up the street, laughing; a mirage of gazelles in summer.
Tennis players grunt in the sports park. Across from the church, young men park side-by-side, three in a row, and chat through car windows. People post book recommendations, photos of sunsets and children, odes to hanging out with their dogs and lovers. I read the Irish Times, as I would have any Sunday, only the arts editor notes that reviews of theatre and live music will not appear for the foreseeable future, and a food critic writes her last column “in a while”. It is like any other Sunday, except for the taint of possible contagion attached to ordinary things like doorknobs, touchscreens, petrol pump handles, public handrails, so much more.
Yesterday there was a queue outside the supermarket. We all stood politely, six feet apart, waiting for our turn. Tori waved at me. Inside we cringed from each other as we shopped. Otherwise we seemed normal, intent on observing daily, even seasonal rituals; a young boy perused floral bouquets, in advance of Mother’s Day. The mother-in-law had told us of a woman who had approached her while she was shopping, and when she had admonished her for not maintaining an appropriate distance, the woman had said, “But I have my medal to protect me.”
That evening the tanner came to collect a dead cow on the farm. The husband shot her: too old and frail to get up from where she had fallen, the cow would have suffocated to death.
I wish you had been there, he said.
Yeah. He knows me well.
I might be serene in the face of everything, but I’m not unafraid. I read about people drowning in their hospital beds, pink froth bubbling in ventilator tubes, and it frightens me, the idea of any of my loved ones and neighbours dying in this manner. I think of what Anne Boyer wrote in an essay on the coronavirus: “fear educates our love for each other - we fear a sick person might be made sicker, or that a poor person’s life might be made more miserable, and we do whatever we can to protect them because we fear a version of human life in which everyone lives only for themselves. I am not afraid of this kind of fear. For fear is a vital and necessary part of love.”