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(This Sucks) (Yeah)

When quarantine and social distancing started, I was in Jogja. Sitting inside my three by four room in a boarding house filled with strangers who I admittedly never really bothered to learn the names of.

By the time the quarantine period ended, I was and still am in Jakarta. Lying down on my childhood bed in my childhood bedroom in a home filled with my parents, my younger sister, two noisy dogs, and a sugar glider. 

My room in the boarding house in Jogja is vacant. The contents have been emptied out and brought back to Jakarta a few weeks ago in several cardboard boxes. I’ve received news that my major would only offer online classes up until at least early next year. Nothing is waiting for me in Jogja that I cannot do here in Jakarta.

Covid-19 is a scary thing. You can catch it whenever and wherever. It does not discriminate. Not by race, not by age, not by gender. It’s an all-encompassing disease. A seemingly borderless one too, as it crept from Wuhan, China to even Pyongyang, North Korea. It also doesn’t care how careful you’ve been, to sanitize your hands and take a shower after every visit to the outside world, how you’ve been wearing masks diligently, how you only interact with your family and maybe the occasional Gojek and Grab drivers who deliver your take-outs. It just does not care. And it just does not discriminate.

Even so, it’s not the only disease killing people out there.

My next-door neighbor passed away a couple of weeks ago. She had been slowly getting weaker and weaker, unable to move around her house unassisted. She lived alone, so she would call my parents to help her. My mother would sometimes shop for her at the small minimart a few blocks away. Another neighbor and her husband were taking her to weekly acupuncture appointments and medical check-ups. Another neighbor’s kids would sometimes visit her and bring her things that she seemed to need. I think her sister was even living with her during her last few days.

The cause of death was old age, and perhaps also the fall she had taken in her bathroom two months prior.

My Grandpa’s sister passed away a couple of weeks ago too. It had been so long since I last saw her, back in early 2020, when we gathered at my Grandmother’s house for a Chinese New Year celebration. She seemed healthy back then. She walked around and talked to us and made jokes at our expense. If you had seen her socialize, you wouldn’t have guessed that she had cancer. 

She was always a social butterfly. I knew she had cancer, and I’d heard of her daughter telling my mother and my aunt about her plans to bring her to the U.S.A. to visit her brother, my Grandpa’s youngest brother. It was the last thing her daughter wanted to do for her before her cancer potentially got worse. They had already had the right visa and everything. They were looking for cheap flights on traveling applications. Who knew her cancer would get worse faster, and airports and borders would get shut down before she ever stepped on American soil?

The cause of death was cancer, and perhaps also old age.

Humans of Quarantine should be a new Instagram page documenting how people live in quarantine. There are subreddits on Reddit called Am I The Asshole and Relationship Advice. These days, I like to check in on them to read about how other people are living their lives.

It’s funny to me that even in quarantine, there are always people getting married (albeit a smaller occasion with fewer guests) or planning a wedding (what an overwhelming thing to do in the middle of a pandemic) or divorcing or getting engaged. There are still people hitting life’s milestones even though the world seemed to have stopped at a standstill last March. There are still people who are quarreling with their in-laws. People are still having conflicts with their family and friends and roommates. Human interaction and its consequences do not cease to exist just because we cannot meet each other face-to-face anymore.

I can still call my friends in the middle of the night and talk to them about seemingly nothing and everything, just like I did when we could meet up at small cozy cafes late at night months ago. I can still arrange gatherings with them. I can still contact them and make an effort to stay in touch. At the same time, they can also text me and send me the most mundane and unfunny memes. We can still keep up with each other through all the social media and communication platforms.

Fallouts and friendships ceasing to exist this quarantine would have happened anyway, even if quarantine had never happened. 

We just now have social-distancing to blame for the disintegration of a long-dead relationship.

I’ve always loved the Studygram and Studyblr communities. These high school and college students who take perfect notes with the most perfect handwriting, who jot things down on their bullet journals every day, who actually do their assignments and rarely ever procrastinate. I love seeing their productivity. How they seem to have their lives together. I love it. 

But these days, their contents have evolved. They don’t seem so perfect anymore. They talk about how they hate their online classes and how their homes do not offer the best study environment. They talk about their financial hardships, how they have to pay for student housing only to be sent home a few weeks after stepping foot on campus. They talk about their immigration statuses, how they have to stay in the countries they are studying in and cannot go home because if they go back to their countries, they will be risking their student visa. They talk about how unproductive they’ve been, how stressed out they feel, how burdensome studying is.

I listen to them talk, and I nod my head to their words because I relate to them. I’ve never been the most perfect or studious of students. My notes are all over the place. But their struggles read like mine.

Faculty and lecturers arrange for online classes while we, students, feel scammed for having to pay the full tuition. They give out assignments, caring less about our home life situation or the internet connection we have in our houses. There’s a disconnection between the education system and its students this quarantine. They overestimate us and think of us as not poor because we can afford to attend universities, forgetting that financial situations can change in the middle of a pandemic.

This Quarantine season has lasted too long. Today lands in September but yesterday seems to be so far away in April or May. I forget what day it is as I stay inside. Sometimes when I wake up late, I’m disoriented from my own unknowing of time. 

All I know is that we are living in one hell of a timeline, and I want out. We all want out. Both out of this Covid-19 mess and out of our own houses, out of the bubbles we live in these past few months. We want to get back into our normal lives. We want to jump right back into the routine of March, when we went to work or school at nine and left at five. We don’t want to stay here where work takes up all day and there is no separation between online and offline.

We want to go back to when things were not necessarily better but simply simpler. When we didn’t have a deadly pandemic hanging around our necks, the country’s economy to worry about, and the sense of being unproductive and not keeping up festering inside our stomachs. 

We want to rewind and stay there in a loop.

3 thoughts on “(This Sucks) (Yeah)”

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