Is it over?
It is Friday night in Florence in July. We sit at one of the bridges over the Arno eating ice cream. Although it is nearly midnight, the ice cream bar is very busy. People wait in longish lines for their turns, only putting their masks on at the doorstep before entering the building. I can’t help but notice how everyday life hardly deviated from how it used to be before everything started. Not having spent the quarantine in Italy myself I am fascinated by this. My Italian friend says, “I don’t want to think about it anymore. What is there to understand anyway? I feel like we were just sitting at home in a very comfortable position compared to the rest of the world and nothing actually happened. I just want to look forward and get all those things done which I could not do during this time.”
So, I wonder if this the current drive now, that we have made a conscious decision to live in spite of the virus? Or is it that indeed much less has changed from what it means to be “normal” before and during this time? During the last month of July, there were about 100 new cases registered in Florence – a relatively small number compared to the total number of 3,291 infections.
Yet, going out does not at all mean ignoring these numbers, or in fact worldwide trends which have on aggregate not really changed at all. “Whenever I go out in Italy, I have to think of the country where my family lives and where friends have lost dear ones around them”, a South American friend tells me while we are meeting at a public swimming pool, “I have stopped sharing pictures with them, because I feel bad that my life has become so normal again.”
Apart from the question of the use of spaces and whether to spend time in public areas, going out is probably a reflection of a strong longing to connect with others, not just the process of seeing and being seen, but actually to relate on deeper levels. Love is very visible. Maybe because it was harder to meet earlier, maybe because every close human contact still catches attention as something extraordinary. Or because online dating spread proportionally to the spread of the virus and all those affections are now tested in the real world.
museums and public spaces awaiting to be returned to
The rhythms of the virus are changing. With the intervals between new infections occurring being spread out, there may be longer breaks to breathe. But with different patterns all over the world, different speeds and spatial expansions, the virus may have actually taken a poly-rhythmic form, kind of like György Ligeti’s Lontano – and just as this piece suggests, the end of this may actually be very far.