As we slowly emerge from government-imposed lockdowns, we find ourselves forced to renegotiate some of the spaces that used to be the most familiar to us. Shops, community centres and public transport now all carry an invisible threat: surfaces may be contaminated, airborne particles may be inhaled.
The way we move within these spaces has changed. This is partly due to the safety regulations devised to enforce distance, and partly due to our personal perception of threat.
Since lockdowns came into force, I have been co-curating the 100 Words of Solitude project, collecting and publishing global literary responses to the pandemic and its impact on our daily lives. The writing reveals that, across the world, emotional responses to mundane activities are now heightened. Our behaviour has changed in response to a threat we cannot see, but which may nonetheless kill us.
“The enemy is outside,” Megha Nayar wrote from India in April. “And so we huddle indoors, forgetting, for the time being, what the sun and moon look like.”
From Chernobyl to COVID-19