Read Part 1 of The Corona Honeymoon here.
The crazy thing about living in the West, is that we saw corona coming in slow motion–and yet we didn’t take it seriously. We could study all the death charts of other countries, and yet I was told, “I think you’re being crazy” when I asked Sergei not to take public transport. It’s March 16th, we have exponentially rising death cases and my friend’s friend working in the Intensive Care told us how they’re already “cleaning up.” People who have been on life support because of a coma or cancer, and have minimal survival chances are being unplugged. We need all the beds we can get, all the respiratory machines available. Healthcare sees it coming, and does take the virus seriously. More seriously than our politicians, much more seriously than my friends.
Sergei wants to take a train to work. I tell him not to. “You’re being crazy, you are totally irrational. I find it hard to argue with you, when you bring emotional arguments. The trains are going to be empty.”
“Could you replace the word crazy with cautious?” I ask Sergei, with a stone in my stomach.
He raises his hands in the air, as if to signify surrender, “I don’t feel heard.” His hands swat imaginary flies near his ears. We both sink into silence. I set the table for two, but he stays on the couch, watches me eat with his computer on his lap. Our silence is a mousetrap, tightly sprung.
We saw it coming, and yet, we didn’t think it would come. I shrugged as it happened in China, felt invincible as it was now only in Italy and in Germany–not yet in the Netherlands. As if some medieval border agreements would give me protection. We read all about the wreckage in Italy, and yet, as the first cases popped up in the Netherlands, no one gave a fuck. It was in the south of the country, we were safe in Amsterdam. Just my grandmother wasn’t, just my uncle and aunt weren’t.
It’s the 28th of February when it’s finally official, the virus is here in Amsterdam.
“Please put your phone away,” I say, enforcing my no phone rule in the classroom. We’re trying to discuss the difference between deductive and inductive logic.
“Sorry Miss, but I had to check it. Corona is in Amsterdam! And it’s the Parool, it’s a legit source, no fake news,” says long-nailed Tasha with her eyes on the screen.
There is more unrest in the class than if I would have walked in with a strap-on.
“Fuck!!” “Really?” “I’ve got to go man.” “Hey Jordan, why you coughin’ now? That’s not funny.”
Oh shit. This is only the morning lecture, there’s another eighty people I need to interact with before this day is over. Instead of running out, I walk, slowly, to the left side of the classroom twirling a white marker between my fingers.
“1 in 200,” I write on the board. “This is the mortality rate of corona. What are, statistically, your survival chances?”
“99,5%” I record Hakim’s right answer.
“When using a condom as protection during sex, what is its effectivity?”
98%, I write, and next to it, 85%, which I circle. “The actual rate is 85%, because people are sloppy condom users.”
“Who you callin’ a sloppy condom user Miss?” Darren blurts.
We laugh, continue our class and life, for another two weeks before I go into self-containment on March 13th. In those two weeks, I have a trip planned to Paris, a symposium in Berlin, two major parties and lots of hugging with my 60+ mother who has returned from a four-month trip in Africa. If I had had the virus, I would have been a super spreader. The Super Spreader, the artist formerly known as A Socialite With International Ambitions. From a person, you become reduced to a host, a viral suitcase.
In Sergei’s house, we both wait and see if we are going to show symptoms. One person in the multi-national Sergei works for is officially diagnosed. One of the people in his team had a fever for five days, his daughter had symptoms and his wife. They were denied a COVID-19 test, because the healthcare professionals told them they “are under seventy years old.” We need two weeks to see if we are infected. It’s the slowest game of roulette I’ve ever played. At the drugstore, I bought almost 250 euros worth of medicine; preventative vitamin pills and, for when we do get ill, an assortment of paracetamol, cough syrup, nose sprays, Vaporub and other placebos.
I arrive with my basket of drugs. It’s Friday the 13th. Two days ago I was snorting speed, now I’m clutching my cough syrup like a rosary. The ball is rolling in the roulette table and our social experiment is about to kick off—let the games begin.
Between that cold December night that Sergei and I first fucked, and this Friday the 13th of March, we have broken up five times. Even though we aren’t officially anything, we do break up pretty officially and we go through the entire tapestry, ranging from: “I want a week of space” to “You deserve someone who fits you better,” and even “Come on, hate me till the end.” Four times he tried to dump me, unsuccessfully, and once, as a finale, I dumped him.
In the words of a four-year-old: “He started it.” Totally unexpected. We had been sending voice messages back and forth while I delayed and delayed going to bed. I listened to several of his voice messages again in the morning, my heart pumping a smile to my face.
“Yes, when I used to perform poh-etrrree, I also found it harrrd to find my forrm,” followed by, “You know, in Rrrrussia, women with moustaches are considered to have a special constitution, which makes them sexy.”
I went through my day with his voice in my ears, happy to see a message from him on WhatsApp, until I read it.
“I can’t date two women anymore, I think it’s immoral. What should I do?” Uhh, figure it out for yourself; I’m in a meeting, and then I’m working with my graphic designer on a report.
I write, “Can’t give this the attention it deserves, I’ve got a very busy day. Do what feels right to you.”
Before he fucked me that first time, he told me, “I matched with someone else as well on he OKCupid.” I laughed; why would I care? “I think you should tell her all this, not me.” It didn’t bother me one bit that there was another. My shoulders dropped and my eyebrows retracted to their own sides of my face. It took the pressure of me to be THE ONE. We could just be together and play now.
“I think I should break up with both of you. It doesn’t feel right to date two people. And I don’t know what to do.”
I looked at the text, looked at my graphic designer and said to her, “I’m being dumped.” She pushed a coconut-almond bonbon my way. “It’s okay,” I said, waving everything away, “He has a small dick anyways.” My teeth crunched together, long after the bonbon had been eaten. I had no time for this, and he persisted. Urgh, I had let him in, let him into my mind and carried his voice around in my ear.
“It’s okay,” I said, to no one in particular. And put my heart in self-containment.