Authenticity · COVID-19 · Creative Writing

Invisible Pain

An invisible destruction fills the land. Immeasurable pain; unseen, unheard.

“Where?” you ask, “Where? I don’t see it. I don’t hear it. I’m fine, tucked away. Hidden away in my rabbit hole. I don’t need anybody. Me and my own are fine, we’re safe. We’re comfortable.”

“As a matter of fact,” some even say, “I’ll be fine if things never go back to the way they were.”

Fine then, keep your illusion of safety.

You “heroes” at home, a self-given title for those consumed with the daily case count, lives lived in terror and fear. Not only for them, but also a good excuse for the selfish, for those whose only care is for their own. Those who still have a job, and a neat little family. Who keep telling themselves that they are doing the right thing: saving lives.

And maybe they are. At least, the ones that are visible to the eye.

But do you see the others? The thousands upon thousands of others? The billions of stories, unheard, and locked away. Those stories that are hidden in rows upon rows of neighbours and country-sides, shut off, behind closed doors?

While you watch your Netflix shows and get lost in an increasingly virtual world, while you listen to daily death counts for strangers, and support restrictions that have little to no effect on your own life, I will tell you what I see in reality. Their cries are getting louder and I can ignore their voices no longer. Theirs is an unheard reality of a side that has been, at times, unjustly labelled “covidiots” or “selfish” or “covid deniers.”

There is a reality that we have collectively begun to ignore: The reality that human suffering and pain exists beyond this virus.

This pain doesn’t neatly fit into the convenient narrative of ‘lockdown to stay safe’, so our world has simply shut it out.

We hear daily of the deaths, of the numerous cases, of the overwhelmed hospitals, and tired hospital staff. We’ve heard of the Covid long-haulers, who suffer for months with symptoms which have drained their youth. Their lives ruined. We’ve heard their pain and their pain caused a beautiful thing: Compassion.

We listened. We responded. We acted.

In the name of this very same compassion that was shown, can we now take a moment, just a moment, and listen to the stories of the unheard? The stories of the lives that have been hurt more by the measures to protect than the virus itself?

A brand new mother, what a beautiful thing. A new life to be celebrated. The little one, he has her nose and a dark head of hair. A precious little thing. Yet in her quiet house, she weeps with her child, forgotten by the world. A world that has gone on living without her: No baby showers. No visitors exclaiming over her new prize. Those experiences were stolen from her. No assistance with the enormous task set before her. No reprieve from the many changes that seem so new and foreign. Just one sleepless night after the next, no playgroups or outings. The only one to hold her child. Her makeup bag sits on the shelf, forgotten; objects of a past life that seems so very far away. The summer dress she bought a year ago hangs in her closet unworn. Who is she? She’s forgotten the woman she once was. Her husband leaves for work with a smile, and inwardly she resents him. His life goes on as always. What about hers?

See no evil. Hear no evil. Let’s pretend it doesn’t exist.

A new widow weeps in grief. The man she committed herself to for nearly seventy years passed on alone. All alone in a hospital room that she was not allowed to enter. Her room, also, is in lockdown. She must go on alone. She must mourn alone, mourn that she was not able to be by his side in those final moments. Mourn that her life could end the same. Hour after lonely hour crawls by. If only, she could feel the support of her family and friends during this loss. He was a man who was loved dearly. A funeral of five. He deserved so much more. Shut off from the world, no one to see or hear or feel her pain. No one to hold her and say: this is not right.

See no evil. Hear no evil. Let’s pretend it doesn’t exist.

We’re saving lives, after all.

He worked at the cinema for twenty-two years. Then suddenly, without warning, his livelihood is gone. Now, what he worked at joyfully for all those years is classified in a category. A category labelled “non-essential” by those who ironically labelled themselves “essential”. Our world boasts equality, a tier system gone… how funny to find out that it was alive and well all along. All it took was tragedy to rear it’s ugly head. Is he important to the world? The smiles of his customers once told him he was, and his heart aches at the memories that his building held: those awkward first dates, a young teen scrapes his quarters together to pay for her popcorn. Crowds of Harry Potter enthusiasts, excitingly waiting hours in line, all dressed up in their costumes. An elderly couple shuffling slowly along hand-in-hand, to watch an age-old love story that couldn’t rival their own. For a time, hope remains that the season will end. Hope is a fragile thing. Soon it fades into a blur of endless government assistance checks, re-run Netflix shows, and unpaid bills. The bottle he once battled with calls to him, and he inclines. With churches gone, his support crumbled before his eyes. Family visits deemed illegal, he’s on his own. A dangerous thing for a recovering alcoholic. So he pours himself drink after drink, the only thing left to ease the pain.

See no evil. Hear no evil. Let’s pretend it doesn’t exist.

One year of school left. Just one short year before he becomes a man and enters the real world. At once, his future is snatched away as life closes down. Sent home to work, with no real support. Grades start slipping, as he mindlessly sits in front of his screen. A screen meant to teach him. Teach him what, exactly? Does it matter anymore? Home alone with his thoughts day after day, while his mom rushes to work and his dad leaves for the office. They have purpose, something to get up for. He doesn’t. Life on devices isn’t as easy as it seems. The web is dark. His thoughts torment him. Day after day, his friendships fade. The loneliness and boredom is unbearable. But the lack of purpose has stolen his future. Finally, he can’t take the pain any longer and in a heartbreaking act of desperation, he ends it all.

No one will notice anyways, he thinks, they’ve already forgotten I exist.

See no evil. Hear no evil. Let’s pretend they don’t exist.

Just four stories, out of millions. Human sacrifices, for a better cause. Shield your eyes, watch the News, try to ignore the reality of the other side of pain.

These restrictions are good. These restrictions are good?!?

History books will tell the tales, with perfect hindsight: What we did right – more likely -what we did wrong. Ever judging the actions and motives of a world that didn’t know better. But will they tell the stories? Will they reveal the true darkness and pain of the generation that lived when families were separated, when non-Covid deaths didn’t count, when love was redefined? Will we ever hear the stories?

Maybe one day.

But, in the meantime, let’s pretend they don’t exist.