I can’t breathe

This historical time seems to suffer from lack of air. 

“I can’t breathe” is the slogan associated with the movement Black Lives Matter.

“I can’t breathe” is the scream of the Earth suffering from climate change. 

“I can’t breathe” is related to the lung sufferance caused by the covid19.

Many characters visited me saying: Look at me, …. I can’t breathe.

Here they are.

Look at me. I am a woman. I am 76 years old. I lived with my husband for 58 years of my life. He is in the hospital; he is getting worse; he is one of the fragile ones. He is dying. My hands are in pain for not touching his face for the last time. My arms are in pain for not having the chance to hug him for the last time. My heart is exploding in my chest because I can’t give him my last kiss. And I feel I can’t breathe.

Look at me. I am 6 years old. I wear my mask for 8 hours a day, excluding the time of lunch. I am in my new school with some of the children that I don’t know so well because they were going to the other kindergarten. I ask my mother if one day I will see the whole face of my new teachers when they are reading us a story. This time I was wearing my mask also when I was running out of the school to hug my friend before they could see us hugging. And in the running, with the mask, I felt what my mother said: “Don’t run with the mask, you can’t breathe properly!”. I felt like there was no air enough, and for a moment I thought: I can’t breathe

Look at me. I am a mother of 59 years. My children live with their families all over the country. We don’t see each other. For a couple of years, I was diagnosed with mild depression. Now I am sitting all day on my grey sofa, watching the news, counting the dead people, comparing the numbers, and listening to the experts. When I consider the possibility of getting infected, my heart starts to bit faster, my chest is oppressed, and I can’t breathe.

Look at me. I am a man. I am 34 years old. I was used to working for people and with people. I have a coffee place in the square. I fight to have this place. I always dreamt of having a place like this. I always loved to see people walking in the square, the children running around the fountain. Now all is desert. Bynow I am not worried about the money, there is who is in a worse situation. What hurts me the most is my coffee place and the square becoming phantoms of themselves. I look from the window of my empty hall at the empty square and I feel like my breath stops for a while, and I can’t breathe.

Look at me. I am a doctor, a paediatrician. I am a woman. I am 52 years old. In my studio, hang to the walls, there are the drawings of my little patients. In my drawer, there are some cards with “thank you” in uncertain calligraphy. I am stuck in my studio looking at these drawings. Once in the winter, I had my studio full of children with a cold, ready to pass through it and grow up. Now I am in my studio. I can receive my little ones only by appointments. I keep sending them to have a swab every time they have the symptoms described in the procedures. I feel overwhelmed by the papers filled with procedures and responsibilities of the paediatricians of the territory. I am taking care of the procedures, am I taking care of my little ones? I can’t breathe.

Look at me. I am a young woman. I have a child of 2 years old. They said to #StayHome to stay safe. My house is not my home. My home is hell. It is not a safe place. Sometimes I hide myself in the bathroom to cry, and then I feel he is coming, if he gets nervous, I am in trouble. I swallow my cry, and I can’t breathe

Look at me. I am 13 years old. I am deeply concerned about climate change. I got overwhelmed and terrified by the pain of the Earth and by the scenario of climate change. I am diagnosed with climate anxiety. Looking at all these disposable masks, given everyday, for each student in my school, I can’t breathe

Look at me. I am 39 years old. I am a mother and a worker. I always managed to keep working and staying with my daughter. I am working online now, as most do. I am on my computer for 6 hours a day. Sometimes my daughter appears on the screen. In the beginning, I got nervous, and I felt it was not professional. Now I take her on my knees. She wants to look at all the faces into the little rectangular shapes on the screen. I can’t sleep in the night. Sometimes, I have the nightmare that me and my daughter are with all our body confined in the little rectangular shape of the video call, and I can’t breathe

Look at me. I am a teenager. I was bored at school. I didn’t like to study, and I hated my teachers. The only thing I wanted to do was to go out and chill out with my friends. I was imprisoned in my house for a month. I was getting crazy. I miss my school and even my teachers. I hope we can come back at least to the lessons in presence. I can’t concentrate on the screen, I can’t have a digital divide just for me, because we are three students in the house. I am in my little room trying to connect to the wifi, lost in the infinite online lessons, not knowing how long all this will last and I feel like I can’t breathe

Look at me. I am a man of 38 years old. I am lucky. I have a work that I could transform into an online version. I live with a wonderful wife that is a counsellor, knowing tools and stuff that can help in moments of distress. I am the lucky one. I keep murmuring to myself. But still, there is something in the stomach fermenting. I am the lucky one. But there is still something in the stomach exploding. It is screaming: I can’t breathe.

Look at me. I am a woman. I live on myself. All my life, I was doing what they (parents, teachers, authorities) told me to do. I want to be ok. I want to respect the rules. I don’t want to infect anyone. I wash my hands every time I touch something. They said the virus resists on the surfaces of the materials. I don’t go out, either to the park. They said the virus was in the air. I am following the rules. I am staying at home. Sometimes I allow myself to wonder: is it right? Sometimes I allow myself to wonder: is it proportional to the risk? And I can’t breathe.

Look at me. I am a woman. Another woman. We are a lot. And I am not a denier. I am not a conspiracy theorist. And yes, it could work as “I am not racist”, and then you show with your words and behaviour that you are precisely racist. But believe me, I tried to listen to all the voices. I legitimated the fears of the virus, the panic to be infected or to infect. I reduced all my critics, all my “yes, but…”, all my “there is always another possibility”. Because I didn’t want to be labelled as a denier or associated with extreme-right movements. Now, that I silenced my inner voice, I can’t breathe

Ilaria Olimpico

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