Limbo

/an uncertain period of waiting/

Like the rest of everybody these days, I am uncertain when I think about the future. Though, at the start of this difficult moment found myself trying to convince those around me that these dark days will pass. In hindsight I was actually talking to myself when I said that our world was being cast anew. These days, I often lose track of time and live for the moment. Sometimes I have to stop and think what day it is and what I did yesterday. It has been a bit easier over the years though, that is under normal circumstances. The days of the week flowed naturally. With their own rhythm. Even one of the most hated days of all, Monday flew with its charm.

I’d go to bed on Sunday night knowing what to look forward to the following day and to a certain extent, the rest of the week. My Monday afternoon meetings with the team to plan the rest of the week would be in order. On each of those weekdays, I would drop my daughter at the crèche before hitting the sidewalk for the work station. With an almost predictable flow between Tuesday and Thursday, the weeks went by, mostly uneventful. And there was this welcomed climax that occurred almost every Friday when we got visiting groups to experience the art collection. There was also the once or twice a month Saturday project to be coordinated that I looked forward to. We tend to take things for granted when their chain is taut, intact and flow in a clockwork-mechanically-oiled-mode.

But since COVID-19 National Lockdown Level 5 hit in late March, this rhythm has been snuffed-out. Monday has lost its luster. There is nothing remarkable about it anymore. Its blue hues, seeping through Tuesday to Thursday, are gone and so are the gleams of Friday. And there was always that majestic feeling about Fridays. When I left work; with a spring on my gait. Friday morning smelt of pleasantries of promises that said ‘Hey blahkeit where things didn’t go right this week you can try again next week, a gona ghosto die bra’.
I miss the unmistakable light smile strewn on most people that I would come across on my way to work on those Fridays. It always revved-up my heart with enthusiasm when I caught those gestures. Perhaps I was also encouraged by a welcoming feeling that a week has passed and tuck-stacked away in the past.

These days a Friday does not signify the end of the week that has been or a reflection of the challenges past and the anticipation of what’s coming. The transition between these markers of time zones are blotted out. Everyday feels like just like any other day. The days come and go. The markers are restricted to the family happenings.

What I had in mind then I declared that our world was being cast anew was totally different from what has happened right until now. The sense that I had then was that, there was this major reset that the world powers have decided to initiate in order to remove what may be the creases in our global societies which could be associated with overpopulation and the pressures it exerts on our planets natural resources. Even foreign people intrusion in conservative countries and the West’s yearn to regain its power from the East were some of the things that crossed my mind. And in the weeks that followed a lot of speculation around the world did refer to some of these issues. Heck, I even entertained the possibility that we might have been entering into World War 3 wherein the arsenal was a virus. It always fascinates me how as human beings, we are curious by nature with regard to what is going on out there but we remain territorial.

This thinking of a raging clandestine warfare set-in the day I went out for the first time to buy home supplies. At the Brooklyn Mall, all gates were closed. Walking through the isles of shops and passing heir closed doors, I wondered whether life would ever return to normalcy. I felt like a character from the first shooter game Halo, except that it was not dark and dirty, it was empty and eerie. And there were no aliens intent on taking over, killing anyone human on site. There were people like me, panicky, shuffling about on the same mission as I am.

At that time, you might recall, only shops that sold food were open. And even so, these were legitimate big business who could align themselves with the regulations. Even so, they were open for a few hours per day. Travel time was also restricted to a few hours twice a day. Since I could not do shopping for supplies in the early morning window of about 4 – 9am, I could only fit in in the afternoon, the second and last window which was 4 – 8pm. Suddenly we were living in a world where an insane curfew had been imposed to try and combat an invisible enemy that had descended upon humankind. One time, doing my shopping I was approached by a cashier to tell me that the shop would be closing in ten minutes and that I should hurry. I had forgotten about the new reality.

It’s a mostly a blur how we transitioned to Level 3 and the recent alcohol ban as a results of peoples’ careless drinking habit that led to high rising number of people being hospitalized. However, One thing sticks out. At some point prior to South Africa’s move to Level 3 there was a speculation that there was a cure in development. Apparently a medicine that was previously used to treat cancer patients, showed a reduction in symptoms displayed by those affected by the COVID-19 virus. An untimely announcement. Meanwhile, world economies were straining under pressure since a lot of businesses were closed and not profitable when Level 5 restrictions were imposed. Unemployment had risen, and was continuing to do so at an alarming rate, globally. A trend that has continued up to now.

Today more than half a million people affected by the virus in South Africa and almost thirteen thousand people having succumb to the pandemic, even a nitwit would arch their brows with horror; it is really uncertain how the future will shape-up. Naturally evolved or not, man made or not, as various are wont to do; we may not know how this virus has come about for sure. Perhaps, we may find solace in knowing that we know that it is in our midst and that there are measures that humanity has put in place as preventative measures to flatten the curve.

I recall how, before the outbreak; whenever I had a chance to catch international news, I would always wonder why in China some of the people being shown on the telly, going about their daily business, would be wearing masks. Naturally, I dismissed this as a protection against air pollution. Like the rest of everyone out there, I would have shook my head with disbelieve if a little genie told me that this would soon be the norm for the rest of the world.

To date, South Africa has moved to level 2 with much uncertainty, we can be sure of a few things, that our modern communication systems, the internet and the various OTT (Over The Top) services it has heralded like the messaging apps, taxi hailing apps, food take-away apps, television viewing apps available to our society, we had an advantage towards the global response to the pandemic.

We can wonder It would have been difficult to keep the out-break a secret for long than if it had occurred, say in the 1980s. And our response to it would not have salvaged the lives of those of us who have been fortunate to survive until now. Ironically, thanks to this inconvenient-convenient disease that has massacred millions of people globally, a disease that only historical distance would afford us with the tools to understand better, mankind is now more hygienically conscious than ever before. And this is besides coming to terms with our fragile mortality.

*This article, written intermittently during this winter, is dedicated to anyone who have been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic directly or indirectly and triumphed over it, and to those who have passed on as a result of contracting the disease.

22 August,
Late winter

© Mmutle Arthur Kgokong 2020

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