March 28, 2020
As I stumbled out of my room this morning, my eyes still filled with sleep focused on my roommate Ben standing by the window. He was following the movements of a wasp stuck between the glass and the mosquito net. “How long have you been staring at it?” “I don’t know”. We laughed and I looked, for the first time knowingly, at an exhausted wasp. Its movements were incredibly slow as it kept climbing up the net and falling down. I could almost feel the weight its little legs were trying to lift. He finally worked out a strategy to free the wasp, which flew away freer than any of us these days. Then we sat at the table for our last morning coffee.
Ben and I lived together for five years. Today he moved into a new apartment with his girlfriend, as luckily the crisis is not preventing all good things from happening. They recruited a few friends to help and we were seven in total. I haven’t seen so many people all together in weeks. We wore masks and gloves as we carried boxes and furniture through flights of stairs, awkwardly trying not to get physically too close to friends we shared dinners, dance parties and and holidays with. Glances were more telling than usual. Our eyes needed to express everything we usually don’t say with words, since masks covered the rest of our faces and the new shape of normality kept our bodies apart. I think we were all secretly happy to be able to see each other in a situation that felt somehow acceptable, since it was for a good cause. In the years to come we will remember this move.
As I entered my apartment coming back I heard the echo of my steps. A lot of furniture is gone and the house feels different without Ben. I’ll spend the weekend by myself, and on Monday a 19-year-old who works at night and sleeps during the day will take his place. That’s New York. I normally would have been able to shrug this off a bit more easily, but during a quarantine it feels good to be around people you know.
I sit in the living room. Tonight the silence is broken only by the sound of sirens and rain, this city’s way to keep you company. I don’t like to live alone, but we never know what we’re really like till we test our limits. I’ve been asking myself which permanent trace the changes our lives are going through will leave behind. Whether the isolation will make us more solitary than before or the desire to come together will be stronger than ever.
I usually fade as soon as I lie down in bed, but these days I’ve had trouble falling asleep. My mind has been tired and my body filled with the energy of a caged animal. Tonight, thanks to Ben’s move, exhaustion will put my body to sleep, helping my mind forget the fear of sleeping alone.
By Gaia Squarci
Gaia Squarci is a photographer who divides her time between Milan and New York, where she teaches multimedia at International Center of Photography. She’s a contributor of Prospekt agency and Reuters. Her work has been published in the New York Times, the New Yorker, Time Magazine, Vogue, The Guardian, Der Spiegel, among others. Her work has been exhibited in the United States, Italy, France, Switzerland or in the UK.