After the quarantine, where do we go from here?

After the quarantine, where do we go from here?

We have to think about our present, and what it takes to get from here to the future.

Art by Neal P. Corpus

 

The image of the future that I have in mind is filled with dark spots — like a painting speckled with black strokes, seemingly out of place, creating a sense of disquietude. On one hand, there is a part of me that craves the same sense of normalcy that I had before the quarantine. But the other, more perceptive part of me recognizes that there is no going back to how things were. The world as we know it has changed so drastically in the past month. Gone are the days of worrying about minor inconveniences. Now, we worry about what our tomorrows will look like — if we’re going to have tomorrows at all.

It’s a hard-to-swallow pill, but we’re waiting like sitting ducks. Waiting for something. Anything. Hoping that one of these days, we’ll open our eyes and we won’t be locked down in this dreary reality anymore.

We have moved into this new life of isolation like newborns equipped with nothing. Nothing could have really prepared us for this sort of situation where the routines that we have so dearly clung onto are suddenly reduced to non-essentials. What used to feel like can’t-live-withouts now seem like far-fetched dreams that happened a lifetime ago. And while there are people who continue to thrive in these circumstances — those who live in gated communities who can afford to stay at home, those who have enough savings in the bank to last over a month — there are also people on the opposite end of the spectrum. People who have depended on a meager daily paycheck to stay alive, people who now, more than ever, are faced with the blatant disparities in society.

It’s a sobering reminder of our privileges. While some of us think of this quarantine as some sort of vacation, there are people who are on the precipice of dying from hunger before the virus even gets to them. They say that the pandemic is an equalizer. But if anything, the pandemic has only caused a greater divide between the rich and the poor.

These days, I often find myself in contemplation. There’s not much to do anyway, except think about what is and isn’t, what will be and what has been. In these moments of silence, I become so painfully aware that even though I am privileged enough to be comfortable during this crisis, I am not privileged enough to make it so everyone is as comfortable as I am. Empathy can only go so far in times like this. And my empathy has slowly transformed into anger.

I think about the day before the first day of quarantine. It was a Wednesday. I remember it so vividly like it was just yesterday. The rain drenched me on my way to the office as I tried to cross the street where 10-wheeler trucks drove without a care. The office was overwhelmingly cold, and I was disappointed that a play I was supposed to watch that weekend got cancelled. When I went home and news broke about the lockdown, I thought nothing of it. I thought, at least I get to quarantine myself with my sister who is a doctor. The next day, we went to buy groceries and joked about how people were panic-buying alcohol instead of soap. Now, a month has passed and any humor I had about this situation is long gone. All I have now is anger, and all I want is for the government to finally do their jobs right, to end our suffering once and for all.

When I think about the future, all laden with uncertainty and bleak images, I think about what it means to be in power. And I think about what the people in power should be doing right now. They’re chasing their enemies and bowing down to foreigners, while the rest of us are suffering from their incompetence. There’s over 100 million people in this country depending on the decisions of the very few, who, for some reason, would rather cover up their mistakes than solve the problem. We’ve hit a point that is even lower than rock bottom.

 

Stay at home, they say. Wash your hands, wear a mask, and follow the rules. But what comes next? There is still so much more that must be done.

 

We often look at this pandemic as something temporary, a mere blip in our lives. We think of the befores and afters, laying out plans with loved ones once all of this is over. Even though every single day is a growing disappointment, we look at the last day of quarantine as that beacon of hope — some sort of motivation to get us through isolation. But to get from where we are right now to there is a long and winding road with Goliath-like obstacles. We are stuck here, in this moment of immense hopelessness, walking in the dark, and we’re being led by people who refuse to open the light.

We think about the afters, because our present lives feel like a clip from a post-apocalyptic movie, and it’s hard to wrap our heads around the fact that this is our truth now. We crave to go back to how things were, but even more so, for things to change. We have stagnated in this phase of waiting, and we feel powerless — because what can we, as individuals, really do to fight an unseen enemy? Stay at home, they say. Wash your hands, wear a mask, and follow the rules. But what comes next? There is still so much more that must be done.

It has gotten harder and harder to stay optimistic when the pandemic continues to kill, but to remain positive is to stay sane. To remain positive is to stay vigilant. To remain positive is to believe that the future is still within our grasp. As days drag on, we’ll continue to believe that things will get better. And it will get better, be it by the hands of those on top, who might finally wake up one of these days, or by the hands of all of us.

We are not dead yet, and we will live day by day with an unwavering hope that these long, dreary days will end.

Cover by Neal P. Corpus