How quaint to re-read my post from February 3rd, where my main concern was whether to set a reading goal, rather than worrying about which of my friends and family members might get, might die from, COVID-19.
Some of us are reading more to escape. Some of us can’t concentrate enough to make the letters line up and sink through the miasma of anxiety.
I cycle through both.
Some of my calmest moments in the last few weeks have been listening to Akata Witch, by Nnedi Okorafor, as I walked around my neighbourhood; or reading This Lovely City, by Louise Hare, in baths so hot my skin turned red on contact. Both books pulled me out of this where and when, and placed me somewhere else – amongst magical young Nigerian teens in the first instance, and amongst Jamaican immigrants to London in 1950 in the second. The main characters in both books face many hurdles, but none of those hurdles is a global pandemic, and it was a blessed relief to be transported through the pages to anywhere that isn’t The World, March 2020.
Other times, I’ve tried to read or listen to my books, and my mind has raced right through them and back around, blocking out meaning even as my eyes or ears are tracking the words. Not even the beautiful Nigerian-accented English of the Akata Witch audio-book could take me away when every cell in my central nervous system roiled with what needed doing Right. Now. Right. Now. Right. Now. I still have moments when all I can do is scroll through Instagram or Twitter, hoping that someone will have an answer. How long will this last? When can I see my friends again? I will touch your arms and your hands. I will tap your knees gently to make my point. I will lean my head on your shoulders. I will hug you and hug you and hug you.
I won’t read 100 books this year. I don’t care. Any time – every time – I can pull myself away from a small screen to lose myself in a book is a moment the the worry abates for a moment, and that is the best I can hope for right now.