Before the ghost town, we are dancing to The Sugarbabes’ About You Now. Before the ghost town, we are in the pub talking about how everyone talking about coronavirus is like everyone talking about Love Island in summer. Before the ghost town, we hear a girl in the Chinese restaurant say everyone in Liverpool John Lennon airport has to be quarantined & that sentence is so novel, so funny. Imagine. Was it only last week that celebrities sang Imagine? I felt so murdery.

When lockdown is announced, I begin a second bottle of wine & re-watch re-watch re-watch the ghostly video of us dancing to About You Now. The bad lighting, drunk-shaky camera & earnest, sticky happiness makes me think of home videos of tragic celebrities before they were tragic celebrities. We will never listen to that song again. We have butchered The Sugarbabes.

(He is on the phone saying, Covid-19 has killed celebrity culture. We don’t care about them anymore.)

I have been thinking about documentation so much. When I moved to the housing co-op in Catford I am now stuck in, I began a diary. I wanted to start 2020 with volunteering, kicking off, growing veg, being more sober, getting on with writing according to a tweet I posted on New Year’s Day. I wanted to document the feminist direct action group I joined, I wanted to write about all the weird theatre I would see, demonstrations, exhibitions. I could not put pen to paper & write the virus has changed all of our lives or we are expecting lockdown any day now or today was the day the prime minister announced the closure of schools. I feel like I am imagining myself as an evacuee in a year seven history project. Instead, Covid-19 makes me an obsessive Whatsapp voice noter.

(Before the ghost town, I get my first tattoo: Silly Merricat on my forearm. The tattoo artist asks, since it’s my first tattoo, had I been planning this a while? In truth, the idea came to me at 1am & at 3pm here it was. I send a voice note saying: I thought the permanency of a tattoo would freak me out, but I love it. Whatever happens, this will be on my body for the rest of my life. I know it was impulsive, but I knew I had to get it immediately. Before the ghost town, I am psychic.)

My documentation is voice notes, videos, messages, Instagram stories. I send my mum the video of everyone clapping for the NHS on my street. She replies, Londoners are always louder, but sadly you are at the epicentre. I wish you were here. I look up the number of confirmed cases in Lewisham. I can’t remember if this is before or after, but I can’t stop thinking about the 36 year old black woman in Peckham, Kayla Williams, who was told she was not a priority, that the hospital won’t take her, who died of the virus. & how women’s pain is ignored & how black women’s pain is especially ignored & how this is one of the few things the pandemic has not taken away.

(My grandma is on the phone saying her & her friend Christine are lighting candles at 8pm for Covid to go away. I order a guardian angel prayer candle to her house & later, watch half of a virtual mass on my phone & think about the nuns at the end of my street who run the catholic bookshop. The virgin mary statue in the window of the flat above the bookshop is now joined with a teddy bear for the lockdown teddy bear hunt, inspired by Micheal Rosen’s We’re Going on a Bear Hunt. I check Micheal Rosen’s Twitter again, he has been able to eat today & will be getting a more comfortable oxygen mask soon.)

In limbo, before the lockdown, we are social distancing, we are sitting two metres away from each other at Blythe Hill Fields. Four years & five days ago, I sat exactly here & became so overwhelmed with everything about being twenty-one, I ended up in Lewisham hospital for three days. Lewisham hospital is a twenty minute walk from where I live now & on the 23rd of March, I was going to go to a demo in solidarity with the unpaid hospital cleaners. On our first Zoom meeting, we talk about how we can organise online. I try to remain positive but feel so powerless. I remind myself that Lewisham was the first borough to set up a Covid-19 mutual aid group, that living in a working class area that has not succumbed to right wing ideology can feel more powerful than anything.

(In the ghost town, on my ~~state sanctioned essential trip~ ~to the pharmacy, I take a picture on my phone of the billboard – red background, pink writing: COMMUNITY IS KINDNESS & then the graffiti, black spray paint, dripping: PANDEMIC TO CLASS WAR , the other side of the wall: DON’T TRUST BORIS. A few days later, on my way to the park, COVID FUTURISM, ECONOMY OF CARE, UNIVERSAL BASIC INCOME, BURY CAPITAL on the boarded-up pub.)

When lockdown is announced, there is a man in the kitchen wearing a KILL THE TORIES t-shirt. He tells me it’s a band t-shirt, his friend’s band, Killdren. Listen to Kill Tory Scum and watch the video , he tells me. It is late March & I am (sometimes) (still) in post-election blues & in a few days time, I will burst out of my room & scream down the stairs that Boris has fucking got it & watch my phone fill with messages, party streamer emojis. The man in the KILL THE TORIES t-shirt tells me that Glastonbury cancelled Killdren’s set because it was too political, too violent. The band Killdren are not killing the tories, the band Killdren do not have the power to kill the tories. But the tories have always killed us. The lockdown is announced far too late. The prime minister says, many more families are going to lose loved ones. When human value is based on capital & productivity, whose lives are lost? There are reports that older people & with learning difficulties & other complex needs are having Do Not Resuscitate orders applied to them. The newspaper says, we’re all in this together when they announce Prince Charles has tested positive for the virus. But where was Kayla Williams’ test?

On the news report from Lombardy, the voice over says, it’s a recurring theme now, everyone dies alone. One night, I think my mum is gearing up to tell me my dad has died from the virus. Instead, she is just Covid-sentimental & on the wine. I called Big Kath today to see if she needed anything, she knew your dad as a little boy. Everyone calls my dad Spider. I imagine a spider’s legs curling underneath it. Your dad is a recluse anyway, she says, he’ll be fine, he’s been self-isolating for years!

(My housemate is making hand lotion for the staff at Kings & offers to come with me on the ~~ daily state sanctioned walks~~ because skeevy men are taking advantage of the quiet streets. When I stick gold sequins to her face for her jewellry group’s Zoom party, I realise this is the most physically intimate I have been with another person in weeks.)

In The Guardian, Francesca Melandri writes, I am writing to you from Italy, which means I am writing from your future. The clocks go forward. Groundhog Day. Yesterday or last week? Who was the last person I kissed? Eastenders has ceased filming & is rationing episodes to twice a week instead of four, when will Eastenders run out? & when, in four, six months, a year’s time, when filming begins again, how will soap-time move? I watch their pre-Corona world like a doll’s house. The days melt like plastic, stick together. I am so sick of this neverending bedroom. I read Carlo Rovelli’s The Order of Time in order to stop this Donny Darko time is fake-ness:

“Times are legion: a different one for every point in space. There is not one single time; there is a vast multitude of them…(time) has a different rhythm in every different place and passes her differently from there. The things of this world interweave dances made to different rhythms. If the world is upheld by the dancing Shiva, there must be ten thousand such dancing Shiva’s, like the dancing figures painted by Matisse.”

Carlo Rovelli is beautiful but not helping. I read a tweet by a person living in China at the beginning of April. The tweet is about going for dinner with more than one other person, getting drinks afterwards. He writes, This is the first time this has been allowed since early January. I nearly cried with happiness. I wonder when this will be us. I wonder when our future will come.

(In my notes app, I made a list of things I loved a few days before The Bad Anniversary: mum-texts & weird art & alpro soya chocolate milk & writing & kissing & big powerful coats & aldi tulips & sweaty queer club nites & grandma’s house. Before the ghost town, the gp says she will refer me to a psychiatrist for a bipolar II assessment if my new medication does not work. I am scared of what will happen in the ghost town.)

Derealisation is a part of my mental illness. Derealisation is hard to explain but it looks like a video game or the beginnings of a psychedelic. Sometimes derealisation is funny. Sometimes the corner shop looks so menacing. Going to the counter & buying crisps is suddenly a strange ritual embedded with hidden meaning. Aside from a blip a few months ago, I haven’t experienced derealisation in two years. Now, everything looks like derealisation & (it feels like) everyone is living it. In Mark Fisher’s The Weird and The Eerie, Fisher writes that:

“(The weird) involves a sense of wrongness : a weird entity or object is so strange that it makes us feel that it should not exist, or at least should not exist here. Yet if the entity or object is here, then the categories which we have up until now used to make sense of the world cannot be valid. The weird thing is not wrong, after all: it is our conceptions of the world that must be inadequate.” 

Over Whatsapp, we say it feels like absolutely anything is possible now, what the fuck will happen next?

When I google my grandma’s address for her postcode to send her a mask, I look at her house on street view, the blue car in the drive, the top of the street where my mum & her twin sister would rollerblade down as children. I imagine people walking down this grandparent street, past all these grandparent houses wearing masks, surgical gloves, wheeling more than a week’s shop in a trolley, two Aldi bags, panicked, thinking about when this will be over.

I hear the word apocalypse almost daily now. Fisher writes of post-apocalyptic films in relation to the eerie. However, he writes, in post-apocalyptic films, the sense of the eerie is limited in these cases, because we are offered an explanation of why these cities have been depopulated. Images of an empty Trafalgar Square during the pandemic are not as eerie as a suddenly abandoned house – clothes still in the wardrobe, plates in the sink. The eerie concerns the unknown. The ghost town is eerie in it’s failure of presence, but another eeriness lies in the imagining of the presence returning. What will it be like when these streets are full again? With the pandemic’s increased authoritative measures, when people vote right-wing in a crisis, what will the world look like when we re-emerge?

The prime minister announces: no physical contact with anyone outside of your household. If your friends ask to meet you, say no. Stand two metres away from each other at all times in the supermarket, there is tape on the floor to guide you. The overhead announcement says, Welcome to Tesco Catford, we have introduced social distancing measures. In David J. Linden’s Touch: The Science of Hand, Heart and Mind, he writes:

“From consumer choice to sexual intercourse, from tool use to chronic pain to the process of healing, the genes, cells, and neural circuits involved in the sense of touch have been crucial to creating our unique human experience.”

Physical touch is the only love language we are born with, in fact, develop in utero. At Blythe Hill Fields, sitting two metres apart, we ask what will it feel like to hug someone for the first time in three months? What will this lack of physical contact do to us psychologically? What will sex be like? I read Her Body and Other Parties & all the bodies touching bodies feels repulsive, then all I want, & then repulsive again. I wake up hungover in the night, bring water back to bed with me & remember a person getting into bed with me, damp & cold from a shower in my old draughty flat. I remember the smell of my shower gel on another person, the shivering person clutching my warm bed-body. I think about dancing at The Chateau in Camberwell, spinning each other around, a hand holding a hand leading the hand out to the smoking area. I keep thinking about Judith Butler:

“It is not as if an “I” exists independently over here and then simply loses a “you” over there, especially if the attachment to “you” is part of what composes who “I” am. If I lose you, under these conditions, then I not only mourn the loss, but I become inscrutable to myself. Who “am” I, without you? When we lose some of these ties by which we are constituted, we do not know who we are or what to do. On one level, I think I have lost “you” ok only to discover that “I” have gone missing as well.”

I need to remind myself I am not dead. My friends are not dead. We are not ghosts. We must refuse to become ghosts.

(I keep finding myself thinking about support systems & how many times I have been asked about my support system by doctors, psychiatrists, whoever carries out phone assessments & I have not known what to say until now, & that is, I am incredibly lucky.)

I send a screenshot of a Jean Rhys Twitter bot of the quote You seem so far away and I can only do my best with three broken heart emojis. My best friend sends me a video of her playing the Coldplay song See You Soon:

I’ll be doing my best / and I’ll see you soon

& I put my phone on the pillow to listen to it as I fall asleep . We sing Lorde to each other, embarrassingly earnest, over Houseparty. I watch the video of us singing the Trust Fund song Finishing Your Dinner:

I’m gonna hang up the phone now / and I will see you tomorrow / if you still wanna hang out.

When the ghost town is looming, I write this poem:

says, who are you when i leave this room?       says, you laugh like another person


who are you in the dark again? making the shapes, copying the shapes intently

when someone is real you have to hold on to that realness

when someone becomes real sometimes it is everything

she says some people are people who are closer to death & names them

i keep everything you give me because i know you aren’t here for long

put a pumpkin in my bed because you gave me the pumpkin slept with the pumpkin

i want us all to get in bed together & talk about it

when there is a gun in the room everyone is looking at the gun

when she took the rifle from the glass cabinet i thought she looked so silly

in her tie dye t-shirt the word h y p e a cross her chest where she held it

i like that we sit in corners at parties, hold hands, say

i can’t believe we’ve found each other

& no one we have ever had sex with

will ever reach this level of love