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Foreword to the “Quarantine Diaries,”
by David Garyan

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May 4th, 2020
Trento, Italy


Foreword to the “Quarantine Diaries”

As I write this, the country in which I’ve been living in for almost seven months is beginning to lift the lockdown. Today, the second phase of the quarantine was initiated, meaning that when my brother and I went out, we witnessed a Trento that more or less resembled the one we encountered upon first arriving here. Many of the coffee shops have reopened, along with the some of the bookstores. People are out and about—the only difference is that the masks have stayed. Given the amount of people who still have to wear them for the purpose of entering any establishment, I predict we won’t be able to distinguish between medical professionals and ordinary citizens perhaps until the end of 2020; it’s a small price to pay, I guess, for regaining the tiny amount of freedom we had before (which, at this point, still constitutes much less mobility than pre-quarantine life).

In Italy, the national lockdown began on March 9th, 2020; before that, the virus had been spreading very quickly only throughout the north (mainly the Lombardy region), so the lockdown was restricted just to that area; however, when things began to seriously get out of control, the entire country was shut down, restricting any and all movement—except for the cases of absolute necessity. My brother and I were caught off-guard: Our dad had arrived on February 23rd to visit us for three weeks and now had to return home; this proved to be particularly challenging as his inbound flight had been through Dublin, from where he had transferred to Munich and then taken a train to Trento. Returning to Munich would at that time have been out of the question since Austria had already closed their borders with Italy. Eventually we decided to forfeit the ticket and had him fly out from Rome, which, thank God, worked out just fine in the end. He left on the 14th of March and flew out on the 15th.

It’s on the Ides of March that these diaries began. The idea had been floating around in my head ever since it started becoming apparent that a lockdown of just the Lombardy region wouldn’t be enough; that was already more or less obvious as we began to approach the end of February (which is, incidentally, why my dad couldn’t simply fly into Milan). The real impetus to actually start the project happened when my brother and I realized that not only had our dad left, but that no family member would probably be able to visit us for a long time.

Indeed, a person’s absence truly makes itself most noticeable the day after he or she leaves.

The first entry started as a joke, without much seriousness, talking about bidets and just trying to make the most out of the situation; it was less than a thousand words. As the days rolled on, however, the tedium of having to sit at home gradually took over and some of the pieces began eclipsing two thousand words. Around day thirty, the entries themselves started to get very tedious. Having foreseen that this would be a lengthy affair, I rightly started out by calling the project “Quarantine Diaries” in the plural sense to give myself the option of diversifying my writing. After the thirtieth entry, thus, I switched to doing one poem a day, with these following exceptions: the Armenian Genocide commemoration on April 24thItaly’s Liberation Day on the 25th, and the fall of Berlin on May 2nd (at just over 3,000 words, this is the lengthiest one); that same day, Peter Robertson, the founder and editor of Interlitq, called me to discuss a possible end date. We arrived at the conclusion that fifty was a nice round number and given that Italy had more or less recovered, I suggested doing the final piece on May 3rd to effectively close this project. We were happy to find ourselves on the same page, so to say, and here we are at the end of it all.

I never imagined doing two things: Firstly, hitting fifty entries, and secondly, also doing them consecutively without missing a day. While having written over 55,000 words, I can’t really call this non-fiction because there are seventeen poems of respectable length, but it’s also not a poetry collection because the prose entries greatly outweigh the effort I made with verse (in terms of strict length). I still don't know what to really call the total effort, except “Quarantine Diaries.” What I do know, however, is that it wouldn’t be an overstatement to say that these diaries kept me sane and grounded. Giving myself the task of doing one every day gave me something to look forward to once I saw the sun shine (yet again) through my window. In the midst of it all, we witnessed Italy’s darkest hour since WWII—on many occasions, up to a thousand people were dying in a single day. There was also talk of having to possibly refuse treatment to the elderly because the hospitals simply may not have been able to handle it; things never came to that, so we avoided the worst, one might say.

I’m ready to move on with my life now and though these diaries were mostly for myself, I don’t think it’s a bad idea to leave a record for others about my own experiences. I opened myself up in ways that are unusual for me and, in that sense, the quarantine was a good thing; it made eccentricity and idiosyncrasy okay. If you’re forced to stay at home, the occasional odd perspective here and there is more or less tolerated by the community at large. I just hope that when this thing ends (and it will end) we can keep on accepting people’s oddities and peculiarities in the same way we did under quarantine. I don’t think we need a crisis to behave more like ourselves—to give us the excuse of being the person we’d like to be just because a pandemic gave us justification to act in the way we’ve always wished. Yes, the quarantine did bring out peculiarities in many people—these traits, however, were already things that were part of our characters to begin with; in other words, the pandemic simply brought the strange behavior to light—it didn’t actually create the oddities we witnessed in this strange period.

We may not become better citizens at the end of it all, but I think we’ve been given the chance to be more like ourselves—without being afraid of what others might think. I'll be moving on paradoxically. I’m going to try and retain a little of my quarantine character; I’m going to further discover who I really am and not worry about every single fucking opinion of those around me.

I’ll see you out on the streets, my friends.


Quarantine Diaries

Day 1 – Beware the Bidet

Day 2 – Distance

Day 3 – Bullshit

Day 4 – Humor Me

Day 5 – Whatever Happens

Day 6 – Patience and Time

Day 7 – Ruins

Day 8 – Thoughts from Left Field

Day 9 – American Flu

Day 10 – Development

Day 11 – Deviance

Day 12 – Nature

Day 13 – The Oldest Profession

Day 14 – Freedom

Day 15 – Live Free or Die

Day 16 – I Believe

Day 17 – Games

Day 18 – Risk

Day 19 – Hope

Day 20 – State of Nature

Day 21 – Slave to Society

Day 22 – Hungary

Day 23 – The Stranger Who Was Your Self

Day 24 – Cleanliness

Day 25 – Trento

Day 26 – Art

Day 27 – Masquerade

Day 28 – Hedonic Treadmill

Day 29 – Easter Blues

Day 30 – Change

Day 31 – Instinct

Day 32 – Perspective

Day 33 – To Go On

Day 34 – Attitude

Day 35 – Setting Sights

Day 36 – Unearthing

Day 37 – Some Day

Day 38 – Democrazy

Day 39 – Frame of Mind

Day 40 – Shield

Day 41 – Armenia

Day 42 – Liberation Day

Day 43 – Fate

Day 44 – Invisible

Day 45 – Duality

Day 46 – Remedy for Pain

Day 47 – Good Intentions

Day 48 – Mamihlapinatapai

Day 49 – Russia

Day 50 – Resolution

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