Introverts forced to be extroverts; sensitive people forced to be insensitive; sad people forced to be happy… Today, I was very inspired by a fascinating SO:write women writing prompt on the theme of the ‘dystopia’.
Imagine if you lived in a country where a commonplace type of behaviour, such as being emotional, is forbidden and instead, you must behave in the opposite way…
The past feels like an echo, it rings through me. No matter how hard I try to store it away, I feel the tug back to who I was once was; the life that I once lived.
In the beginning, they told us that we needed to sate our hunger for social connection by learning not to need it.
Distancing was no longer just about who we came into contact with: we were required to practise emotional distancing too.
We were to refrain from opening ourselves up to others. To remove ourselves from the yearn to be welcoming.
We had to learn to contain; to close ourselves off.
What it meant to be human was redefined.
To feel was considered weak.
The early changes didn’t feel that significant. After all, everything around us was already chaotic.
The second wave had spread across the globe and everyone wished that they could go back in time and shake sense into their former selves. But life is not a video game: there is no replay button.
With the new, more aggressive strain that attacked our nerves, bone marrow, lungs and kidneys, everyone was now at high risk.
The second lockdown felt different. More imminent. Everyone fused themselves to their loved ones. We thought, as long as my family is ok, I don’t care about anyone else.
We thought that the pandemic couldn’t get any worse and then it did.
Funerals were banned. Mass graves were mandated. Strangers in black body bags were stacked on top of each other.
We listened obediently, like children, as they told us that we needed to adjust to a new reality if we wanted to survive as a species. The focus was now on everyone for themselves.
Then they said that there would be a restriction on how many friends we were allowed to have.
Most of us were dismissive and wondered how they were going to enforce a rule like that. The outcry was minimal: we were focused on our survival.
Government officials blamed the need for emotional distancing on the virus. Emotional bonds to one another lead to the breaking of the rules. We were reminded of everyone flocking to the beaches when the restrictions were first lifted: the moment we were offered a morsel of freedom. People were reckless and we just couldn’t be trusted.
The internet restrictions came into place and everyone adapted. In 2021, Facebook became obsolete.
In my household, it was just me and Ma. I was taller than Ma by the time I was 13, but still cowered when she was cross. Her voice was thunder and would ricochet through the house. I once brought her a magnet that read: though she may be little, she is fierce. Ma cackled when she saw it, her smile lined every inch of her face.
My world was small but still felt like a universe. Ma didn’t show any symptoms until later on. I really thought that she would get through it. I’m not sure how someone like her would have adjusted to this new world.
But I’m not supposed to think about the dead.
We trained our voices to be a monotone and learnt not to smile. Hugging was equated to biological warfare. We stripped out unnecessary adjectives from our vocabulary and found silent ways to punish ourselves for feeling. We practised the act of forgetting.
Yet, even now, I still struggle to distance myself from my memories.
From the love that I have for my Ma.