For years my mind has nettled me. I am the friend no one likes to visit because I nag about their dusty shoes, I yell about the way they leave creases on my bed when they lay on it, I shake with revulsion at lipstick stains on the glass cups when they come for a party. You see, I am a little too much. Always cleaning, wiping, disinfecting so much that people around me began to feel like dirt.
Sometimes I can feel my insides turning on itself. The worms, piling on themselves. Why should there be any at all? Why does blood have to flow through a network of veins and capillaries branching out recklessly? Why not in a straight, organized line? It fills me with disgust and a need to rip out my gut, exterminate myself.
The stucco walls of my apartment are beginning to close in like a casket. I wake up to feel the weight of emptiness pressing down on me. This is what it is like, the compulsory lockdown. I pull the covers down and try to sleep, then I realize with disgust that my body cream is tilting several inches away from the spot I kept it last night. Exhausted, I sink deeper into the sheets. Yet, the displaced body cream continues to assault my mind. The thoughts refuse to fade, the voice in my head continues to nag, cajole, reprimand.
‘Reorganize it, you filthy bitch.’
‘How can you lie there like something isn’t wrong?’
Reluctantly, I get up and fix it, only then can I breathe.
During this pandemic, I have descended into a hole of constant panic attacks. My mind races with possibilities of death. I clean till my body aches– A million times, a thousand times. It doesn’t matter. My mind won’t let me be.
At the bathroom, I swallow my pills and proclaim positive affirmations (Therapist instructions). She also said to stop binge-watching videos of dying patients on ventilators, but I can’t help it. I chant positivity but before long, I am peering closely at the mirror, noticing little specks of dust. The voice in my head screams.
‘Wipe down that virulent filth. Now!’
When I don’t, it nudges and taunts till I begin to cry, wiping it down like a robot.
When I go the mall in the afternoon, I see almost everyone is without a mask. A man coughs into his palm and reaches for a cereal afterwards. A woman cackles loudly, hard enough for spittle to fly out in a projectile. A baby cries, snot running from its nose, his mother wipes it down and throws the hanky back into her bag. Her hands, not sanitized. There is an old man standing by himself, a few meters from them. He looks frail, vulnerable. His attempt to wear a mask seems futile.
I think to myself, this is how the world ends. This is how we die. Not from the virus, but from our diminishing sense of empathy.