IF WE STOP (14) // Zahra Dallilah & Julie Tomlin
In a series of numbered written dialogues Call Centre correspondents Zahra Dallilah and Julie Tomlin respond to their own prompt: If we stop: Flourishing. Nourishment. Lockdown.
IN FOR SCREENING
my brother has to go in for screening
not in the hospital of course, the lepers are in there
some lepers come home at night
and are lepers in their living rooms too
not the OG lepers, the ones that seek to cure them
hospicing the incurable as a government hell bent on bouncing back to old hell
once fresh hell 'passes'
hospices late capitalism as it coughs and splutters its ways through its dying days
[But it can’t die, too many people rely on it, someone said to me…]
a government whose leader is a leper too
or maybe the government is the leper, in fact,
sick and incurable; to be avoided at all costs.
The sick are not the enemy
all too many knew this before
but somehow we're still headed towards screening.
Temperature guns so the young and fun
can frolic all night and not feel bad
if you're ill go home
shame on you getting sick in the middle of a pandemic
hide the sick
hide the old
hide the not that old but just to be on the safe side
hide the mobility restricted
hide the fragile lungs
hide the diabetics, the autoimmune deficient, the asthmatics
shout from the rooftops about the obese so that they hide themselves from sight and mind
The soil that grows our food is sick, the food we eat is nutritionally depleted; we are not sufficiently nourished, our guts are in a mess (or not messy enough). So many health problems may be traceable to these basic elements. But making us well would make the system sick, maybe finish it off.
shame on you for weighing down the NHS
[but not on us for ripping it to pieces, gut first, limbs later]
show only the pictures of bounce-back bodies
[So many people didn’t bounce back. Those that survived the virus could be living with the effects for years to come]
get beach body ready for the Kent coast
black out blinds in the hospital, don't speak of the dead
go out, eat out, help out, get sick, go home
shame you didn't make it in time
shame sales are still down
shame your temperature's above 37, you failed our screening.
We are all stuck behind screens
separated by screens
connected by screens
seen through screens
seeing by screens
screaming with laughter on screen
as to minimise interference
[How will this distancing affect us?]
Capitalism has done such a good job of making us individualists, before this, I was often amazed at how unaware some people were of others around them as they navigate shared space. Yesterday I was standing in a queue waiting to use a checkout and a young woman glided in front of me - she hadn’t seen me because I was two metres away down the aisle. I could see that the man on the next till was finishing off, so I didn’t say anything. I felt suddenly unsure of the ‘rules’ and I was wearing a mask.
and now when we need each other the most
cos the doctor's come back with the test results
'worst recession since records began
we'll need to move it to a hospice now'
all we have is screens between us
screenings separating the well from the to-be-forgotten
self-isolation to save us from a crisis of individualism
connecting less, from a crisis of disconnection
shame, confusion as we swim in the unsaid
pretending we didn't hear the doctor's conclusion
the unnamed dead stuck in our throats
as we sit smiling behind our screens
legs twitching, hands wringing
Image: Andrew Wilson