Americans, my brothers and sisters. I am writing to you from a room during my coronavirus quarantine. That sounds absurd, doesn’t it? But we are at war. Like our grandparents. They were asked to go to the front, we have to fight from the sofa at home. So put on your pajamas, grab your remote controls and phones, and get ready to fight this war. It’s a long one.
Some academics believe that Shakespeare wrote three plays while in quarantine in the English countryside. For now we’re here writing our shopping lists.
When we first saw the images from Wuhan, we all thought, “here in Europe it will never be like this.” And here we are.
I’m doing quarantine with my boyfriend. We didn’t plan to; we were doing a kind of cohabitation test. I’m from a small town in the south, he’s from Florence, we met in Rome. When the prime minister advised us that moving from one city to another one was off limits from then on, we looked into each other’s eyes and said: “we’re so lucky to be together—amore mio!—at such an unprecedented moment in time.”
Well. It’s been more than two weeks now. We spent the first day making love and gazing at each other. The second day we started walking around the apartment. On the third day we started to exchange menacing looks. On the fifth day we had an hour-long dispute about who should cook and who should wash the dishes, as if humanity’s survival depended on it. (And by the way, he was supposed to cook. He didn’t). Yesterday we didn’t even talk to each other, and today I looked at him and I thought: “who the fuck is this guy?”
At the start of the quarantine, the first thing I did was deactivate my Facebook account. I recommend you do the same. Personally, I did it to protect myself from fake news and the Catholics. When I read that a lady in my city wanted to remove the statue of the Madonna and take it outside to make a procession, I gave up. It is strictly forbidden to go out in groups and I don’t think a statue will destroy the virus. But that’s my opinion.
You will see things you never thought would be possible. Like the Pope, the real one, walking alone in the center of Rome in an empty street usually crowded with tourists, acting like “The Young Pope” by Paolo Sorrentino. Or a swan that travels undisturbed on the Navigli area in Milan. Or the real color of the sky. Air quality right now is great. Or your neighbors.
Yeah, you have neighbors, and you’ll talk to them. And I mean real talk. No Facebook. You’ll meet them on the balcony or by the windows.
Did you know you had neighbors? I didn’t. We meet every day on the balcony at 6pm. We sing the National Anthem and we cry with our hygienic masks on. I love them.
TV shows and quiz games are suspended because there are no competitors available. Watching live video on Instagram will become your favorite daily pastime. Note: if you are among those cool people who just follow a few handles, well, be uncool and start to follow everyone. My mother just did and you have no idea how happy she is. She’s following her favorite chefs doing cooking lessons and even a yoga teacher practicing online. We saw each other on Skype last night and she showed me to how to do pranayama.
The streets are deserted. The government advised us to stay at least a meter apart from each other. To be even safer, if we see someone on the sidewalk, we cross to the other side. If it’s busy, we walk in the middle of the street.
Supermarkets have become kind of what speakeasies were in the 30s. We have to pick a number outside and wait for our turn to buy everything we don’t really need. Though I’m eating things that I never thought I’d eat because so many shelves are empty, like pasta with peanut butter and olives.
We’re not allowed to leave the house unless we need to. So if we don’t really need anything from the grocery, we go shopping at the pharmacy:
“I need a hygienic mask!”
“You already bought 5 yesterday.”
“Right. Now I need hand sanitizer.”
“I just sold the last one”.
“Then I’ll take….diapers, thank you. See you tomorrow”.
People take out their animals like 20 times a day. My literary agent is considering starting a new business renting her dog: You can take Drugo for a walk for the modest price of 20 Euros. She’ll supply the poop-collecting bags.
I fall asleep at 4am and wake up at noon. Today I had lunch at 6pm, then I went out shopping. It’s almost midnight. Usually at this time I get ready to go to sleep. Now I’m drunk. I opened a bottle of wine and I drank it all without realizing it. I’m laughing all by myself. My boyfriend is looking at me, he says I look insane. He’s going to prepare dinner, he says, even though it was my turn.
Finally, here’s a thing you won’t do: You won’t read all the books. That’s bad, I know. I have a mountain of books to read. Elena Ferrante. Houellebecq. The Paul Auster’s trilogy. “The Plague” by Camus.
I thought I’d read all the books on the bedside table, but in several days I haven’t even made the bed once. I spend my days writing because that’s what I do for a living. But I don’t think my editor would be surprised if, in ten days or so, I show him a pile of sheets with the words “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy” on it. I’m getting there.
Good luck, America. Stay strong.