The Crazy Experience Of Seeing People After Years

Traditional yaka mask wearing a seasonal hat. Merry Christmas

Two years. Two fucking years. Staring at the same walls, farting into the same sofa cushions. Venturing out with foggy glasses and constant trepidation. Holding out in stubborn anticipation, that one day it’ll all be over. But then it’s just another day. Then another and another and another day. It’s been years, but it might as well have been one terribly long day.

In this third year of our Lord COVID-19, we are sticking our necks out a bit. We've seen friends from 10,000 km away and 10 km away, which has been equally far for years now. We've barely seen any of these people. Kilometers are immaterial to a nanometer virus and any distance greater than two metres has been insurmountable to us.

Are we wise to see friends now? I don't know. Cases are low in Sri Lanka, we're triple-boosted and as tested as we can be. Is this enough? No, it's never enough, but we've honestly had enough. I'm honestly just dying to be a human being.

The Dying

It wasn't like this last year, whenever that was. People were just dying. Last year Auntie stayed in the guestroom and we never opened the door. We served her and Uncle food on plastic tables outside and never ate together. We handed them jugs of water through the door, which quickly closed. It felt inhospitable, absurd even, but then she actually got hospitalized. She actually died of COVID-19. And we couldn't even go to the funeral. Though she was in our house, I never even saw her face, dead or alive.

I remember when Nihal Mama died and we couldn't make it back for the funeral. We were 15,000 km away, we just couldn't, but in a strange way I've never processed the death. I keep expecting him to be here, because I never saw him leave. He's just around the corner somewhere, his moustache always smiling, his bushy eyebrows always bright. He's still a physically distant relative, just on the other side. I didn't understand the value of funerals until then. You really need to walk people out the door so they can leave. So you can leave.

The world must be full of unprocessed trauma like this today. We've barely been able to attend funerals, especially for COVID victims. How many bodies were disposed of but not laid to rest? It's not even that we don't get to live, we don't even get to die properly. That's another level of fucked up.

Later, when my Seeya died, I was there for everything. We waited with the body all night, extremely uncomfortable in rattan chairs, a pointless act of solidarity with someone who wasn't there. But I realize it wasn't pointless now. It was the period at the end of a life sentence. It was a literal point that let me divide my life into before and after and move on, leaving the dead.

Today death lacks the rite punctuation. It's just numbers. COVID deaths are just a numbers in a CSV. Other deaths are just remainders. Death is processed into charts but left unprocessed in hearts. And so we wander on, ghosts in our own homes, surrounded by ghosts waiting for their proper funeral rites.

The Living