Stefano, Ginevra e Luigi are three cousins who found themselves, like many, to be Covid-19 positive in December. Since the rest of their respective families were not, the three cousins spent the mandatory quarantine period isolated in the tavern of Geneva’s home. We asked them to tell their story as emblematic of those of a generation that is talked about so much these days but rarely allowed to speak.
First of all, introductions:
- G: My name is Ginevra, I’m almost 19 years old and I’m attending the last year of artistic high school.
- L: My name is Luigi, I’m 19 years old and I’m attending the first year of the three-year violin course at the Conservatorio Umberto Giordano in Foggia.
- S: My name is Stefano, I am 16 years old, I live in Rome and I am in my third year of scientific high school.
Logbook (written by Ginevra during the days of isolation):
05/01/2022 – day 1: Gigi, Tati and I tested positive. Locked up in the tavern. It’s cold. Me: cough and cold, I can hardly smell anything. Gigi: cold and headache. Tati: sore throat and disgust in the mouth.
06/01/2022 – nothing positive, except for us. Uncle Dino, fattorDino, is our food supplier.
This apartment has become a bunker.
I learned how to access the fire without diavolin.
07/01/2022 – Everything is the same. Muscle aches. It’s a struggle to stay awake. We absolutely have to clean the house
08-09/01/2022 – CLEANING. We are still alive and zero symptoms. Barely moving, zero strength. We are waiting for FattorDino to arrive.
10/01/2022 – Zero symptoms. I lose rugs of hair
11/01/2022 – what day is it? will it be night? what time is it?
12/01/2022 – We are fine. Tati and Gigi, two Sumo wrestlers
13/01/2022 – Devastating headache. I fall asleep in the video lesson. FattorDino brought us the food.
14/01/2022 – TOMORROW TOMORROW. we bet to be all negative
15/01/2022 – ALL NEGATIVE! THE GF ENDS HERE
During the first lockdown, it was easy for me to indulge in my passions: I devote an hour to reading, then drawing, maybe reviewing some dance moves…but, eventually, did I decant that plan? I like to study, I always get high marks, when someone doesn’t answer a teacher’s question, she then confides in my answer which, punctually, is correct.
Just as easy, after one summer, to find yourself in the same situation as the previous year, falling into apathy. “I feel tired all the time,” “Don’t be lazy! You just need to study!” I could start working out, I could get ahead on that school project…. “Mom, I had sleep paralysis, it was horrible…”, “It’s just a little stress, try to get through the day as normal as possible”.
I take off my sweatshirt, it’s starting to get hot. Mom, I haven’t been able to sleep more than two hours a night for months, I can’t get out of bed, I can’t study, the days are all the same…. I get a call from one of my classmates, “Geneva, are you okay? You’ve been missing video lectures for a month.” Summer is made for traveling, enjoying the sea and spending time with your friends. “That’s great! I finally have my high school graduation this year and I get to enjoy the year because we go back to school in attendance.” It’s November.
Mom, I need help but it’s probably better that I don’t tell you. I never got rid of these paralysis, I can’t handle my mood swings and at times I feel out of my body, like I’m observing myself from the outside. “I hope 2022 gets off to a good start and is a better year. Then again, it can’t be worse than this.” They say that saying things like that is bad luck and in fact….
“Miss, this morning you are seeing the vaccine with binoculars. It’s positive!”. Stefano, when I see you I’ll kill you! Stefano and Luigi knock on the door of the house with their backpacks on their shoulders. “How do we get organized? It’s cold and there’s no space”. But how hard it is to know what the weather is like outside when we only have that small window that barely opens.
There are positives, though, besides us, who have from the get-go collaborated in running the from the get-go collaborated in running the house, we have magically learned how to start a fire and discovered that Gigi appreciates my ASMR videos that I watch at night to conciliate my sleep. We watched every movie and series available on Netflix, improvised sumo wrestling by locking Stephen in his cot, and discovered the value of kindness. Yes, because even though we were jumping around like monkeys in a house, there’s that moment of silence where you think the whole thing looks like a layered video game.
After dinner, before going to sleep, I usually greet my boyfriend on video call; I found myself saying goodnight to him, then passing the phone to Luigi and also to Stefano. Has everyone said goodnight to Ale? Good, Stefano is already asleep. FattorDino is always snappy, we should wire him.
“Tomorrow we have the swab, it’s already been ten days”. “Boy, I almost hope everyone stays positive, I don’t feel like going back to normal life…”. Stefano has a point, by now I’m used to it and Gigi shares this thought.
Three negative swabs and I realized that I would be sleeping alone that night. I admit, it hurt a bit, but our life cannot be limited to four walls through which not a single glimmer of light passes. It’s almost spring and I admit that I would spend another ten days with them in that dark den. No, I’m still fighting with myself, but this brief cohabitation has done me good and this “lightness” still follows me.
I can even sleep better. Could it be that all I needed was company and a little emotional support? Gigi told me not to feel guilty when I ate and after I got out of there I had the courage to eliminate the calorie counter from my apps. Stefano would study with me in complete silence. Maybe so many problems would be solved if we spent less time alone.
I’ll start by saying that I don’t know if it was a tragedy or a comedy, but let’s just say I’m more for the latter despite the bad luck. It all started so quickly, I found out I was covid positive after having a fever of 39 and suffering the worst pains of hell in my bed.
The morning I took the swab inside of me there was a heated debate between “but how can I be positive if I’m always careful and those few people I’ve spent the vacations with are negative” and “of course I am, it had to happen sooner or later, I had a fever of 39, how can it not be covid”.
As soon as I knew I was positive I entered a kind of parallel reality. I felt different, in a way I was almost curious about what it felt like. Within an hour I found myself in a one-room apartment under my uncle’s house together with my two cousins Luigi and Ginevra, who had tested positive a few minutes before me, to spend the quarantine together.
I lived it in a lighter and more playful way than the other two tenants, also because I didn’t want to go back to Rome. I immediately started to figure out how to pass the time, since I couldn’t play the guitar or play with a ball or anything like that, I had to make do, and I managed to do it quite well, also because to find some solitude I just had to go under the covers of my bed and listen to some music.
These days also served to test us, almost as if we had to work together to survive, each had his role in that small house. I won’t say too much about the individual days because they were very monotonous, as expected, but despite this, there were some funny moments. For example, the fact that my bed was a cot with a mattress on top, this was foldable, so that nice guy Luigi decided to close my bed. All very funny except for the fact that it was me in it. In the end I just had to wait for the mighty big cousin to release me to get back to breathing air and not my feet. Or the various fights between me and Luigi, which often occurred in the evening when the third tenant was taking a shower: having more space at our disposal we would start a fight that usually ended when I found myself wrapped in a blanket like a roulade.
Not to mention the contact we had with the outside world, so to speak, thanks to our errand boys, especially fattorDino, or my girlfriend who came by to say hello, but not always as people since it happened more than once to wake up with the dog, call it a dog is quite reductive, of my cousin and find it inside the house as soon as you open the door. All of this ended of course on the day of the negative swab, where as at the beginning one part was hoping for a negative result, but a very small part was saying “why not, why not have another week like this”.
It was 11:00 a.m., when my mother called me that morning and told me that my cousin had tested positive for Covid; I immediately rushed to the pharmacy to take a swab, hoping that it would be “negative”, but it wasn’t. On the way home I thought: “But why me, who has always been careful?”, the fact is that I got into bed and began to cry.
The fear was incessant, I was terrified of having attacked the virus to my mother who has heart problems or to my father. Back home my mother told me to go to my cousin in the tavern to spend the quarantine all three of us together.
The first few hours were spent arguing about the fact that the place was too small to accommodate three people, but the happiness didn’t take long to return, like when the first day Geneva had the symptom of loss of sense of smell, which made us so curious (especially me) to put her head in a basket full of onions and garlic.
The following days were quite monotonous and after only two days, I began to lose track of time by reversing day and night. After the first week, spent between laughs, jokes (especially to Tati) and Tik-Tok trends, I began to miss my violin and the lack of privacy slowly began to oppress me, so much so that I spent a lot of time in the bathroom (the only isolated area of the house). So, very often I would lock myself in the bathroom: I would put my headphones in my ears and listen to classical music at full volume, imitating at the same time to play the violin I had left at home to avoid transmitting the virus on it. All this happened several times during the day and for long periods of time (once I stayed almost an hour), causing my cousins concern, since having headphones I could not hear them. The repertoire was very vast: Tchaikovsky, Vivaldi, Mozart, Gershwin, Bach, Sarasate, Mendelssohn, Dvorák and many others. The pieces were up to 20 minutes long but I skipped many pieces, listening only to my favorite parts. Only when they started screaming and I could hear them, the daily concert ended. In spite of my discomfort, I still managed to be happy: I just thought of quarantine as a “vacation”, even though I thought of what would await me once quarantine was over.
All three of us came to think that we wanted to stay in that world, where all we had to do was call my father to get him to bring us something that was missing in the house, but obviously sooner or later all that would have ended. Among other things, having already done the third dose I was the only one who had the opportunity to do the swab before my cousins, but when the day came I decided not to do the swab, because I knew that if I had been negative I would have left the lightheartedness and happiness that we lived in that tavern, in addition to the fact that I would have missed our “nonsense” between cousins.
The day of the swab, exactly 2 weeks after the first positive swab, I remember that as soon as we left the door of the house, I was dazzled by the sun and I had a feeling of vomiting breathing all that air; moreover, my father told me that I had to drive to the pharmacy, which was difficult for me. We arrived at the pharmacy, the swab came back negative, and we all went on a picnic in the snow together.
We then asked Geneva, Stephen, and Louis to tell us if and how their perception of the virus changed after their experience of illness and isolation:
- S: The covid was fear. The covid was an unexpected host. The covid is still alive
- G: The covid was a huge question mark. The covid was a tragicomic experience. The covid is something that, after two years, is still scary.
- L: Covid was fear, fear of being able to attach the virus to my loved ones, like my mother who has heart disease. The Covid was “tragicomic”: despite the initial despair, the quarantine experience with my cousins soon turned out to be a “good” experience. The Covid is unexpected and sneaky, because it could re-trigger us all given the fact that I could not relive the situation I have already experienced, in addition to the fact that I could endanger those closest to me.
What emerged from their written words and from those spoken in the conversations that preceded this work, is above all the continuous dialectic between discomfort and happiness, the need for privacy and presence, stillness and euphoria. The feeling is that of a generation suspended and exposed to daily uncertainty, which in the last few years of pandemic has lost so much due to the lack of familiarity and playfulness of being together, the suspension of the school that is also education to affectivity and coexistence. However, there are those who have been able to carve out and live moments of absurd daily life and find comfort in them. Not everyone, however, is like that. Today, more than ever, it is important to prevent mental suffering in young people, but perhaps even more important to pay attention to the children, if you are parents, or simply to each other if you are friends or family members.
The story of Ginevra, Luigi and Stefano is one story among many, but precisely for this reason it is the story of many or a version, perhaps a particularly happy one. The three cousins have faced the practical and existential discomforts of a forced cohabitation in a limited space, but have in retrospect been able to build their exit narrative, orienting their experience and its narrative towards a future that they hope will be brighter for them.