Covid-19 Too Much Information

Another winning entry in our student writing competition. A beautifully written short story demonstrating the impact of current circumstances on our lives, our hearts and our heads….Don’t forget to switch off those devices if you need a break.

Take care out there x

Too Much Information

A short story by Eimear Smiddy 

The sun beamed through the partings of my curtains, I rubbed my eyes, bleary from sleep. My phone vibrated and I reached for it, it was three in the afternoon. ‘Jesus,’ I thought to myself, reminded of how messed up my sleeping pattern had gotten.

 

I flipped through the notifications on my phone, ignoring texts from my friends. ‘I’m not awake enough to answer,’ was the excuse I gave myself. Around half of the notifications I received were from the news apps I downloaded over the past month.

 

‘30 new deaths from Corona Virus, 500 new cases’

 

‘150 in critical condition in ICU in Ireland from COVID-19’

 

‘IMF warns of worst recession since Great Depression’

 

‘Global coronavirus death toll surpasses 100,000’

 

I felt the familiar pounding in my chest and my breath shortened. I clicked into one articles: ‘COVID-19 Cases in Your Area’. It frustrated me, as it didn’t give a town-by-town breakdown, instead, it assigned one number per county.

 

“Cork is massive, where is it here? The city? The country? What towns? What if its here in Schull?!’ I thought frantically, despite breathing, I couldn’t seem to get any air.

 

“Sean,” A frail voice called me from the kitchen, it jolted me out of my panic, as I pulled myself out of bed to follow the voice. My 86 year old grandmother was sitting in the rocking-chair by the stove, a cup of tea in her hands.

 

We chatted briefly, as I readied some breakfast. I sat down opposite her as I ate. My grandmother was all I had, my mother passed away when I was young, and I never knew who my father was.

Nan raised me and was always there for me. ‘God, I don’t know what I would do if I lost her,’ the thought flashed through my mind, and I instantly knocked on the wooden chair I was sitting on. ‘I’m only nineteen, I can’t lose the only person I have’.

 

“I didn’t want to wake you up, I heard you up and around at seven this morning, what time did you go to sleep?” Nan asked, sipping her tea shakily.

I didn’t want to tell her about the insomnia, the anxiety that made sleep impossible. I also didn’t want to mention the nightly cigarettes I’d grown accustom to, the only thing that gave me time and space to breathe. It would make her worry.

 

“Yeah, I was up talking to some of the lads, video calling y’know?” The lie slipped out easily from my lips, I hadn’t talked to any of my friends in at least a week, it just seemed like too much effort.

“Ah yes, sure I was your age once, Sean. You’re only young once! Any girls on the scene?” It was same conversation as we had yesterday and the day before, but I don’t think Nan remembered.

“Not at the moment, Nan, it’s probably not a great time to have a girlfriend during all this.”

“Mmhmm, Christ, awful times, Sean, I’ve never seen anything like this, in my eighty-six years.”

 

After breakfast, Nan sent me into town to fill her prescription and get the messages. I had a bottle of hand sanitiser, gloves and a face-mask – I wasn’t taking any risks.

Once I did the shopping, I sat back into my car, my heart was pounding again. “What ifs?’ flooded my mind. I grabbed the hand sanitiser and covered every part of my skin that had been exposed, it burned my face but I just had to be safe.

For Gran, I reminded myself.

I couldn’t breathe, I gulped for air desperately, as I reached into my pocket and fumbled with the new pack of cigarettes. I lit one, breathing deeply and slowly. A truly horrific way of calming myself, but it was the only one that worked.

 

When I got home, I disinfected all of the shopping and put it away. Nan was cooking some eggs for us. The angelus rang on the telly and we sat down to watch the Six One News, as we ate.

“Coronavirus lockdown to be extended… 8,089 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the Republic of Ireland” the newscaster chanted.

 

I couldn’t escape it, it was everywhere, consuming everything in life that had brought me some sense of joy. Though she never expressed it, Nan’s face showed her fear. It made me want to cry.

 

When she noticed my panic, Nan put her arm around me, “how much information is too much information, Sean? Dear God, we can’t get a break from it, can we?” She stroked my shoulder soothingly, as if I were a young child again, and I fell into her maternal embrace.

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