This is the second episode in a series of segments. Listen to episode one here.
While social distancing, it can be difficult not to feel incredibly alone… which is why we created The Check In, a weekly segment where you can share your perspective and tell your neighbors how you’re feeling and what you’re going through.
Next week, we’re looking to share stories about “helpers,” whatever that might mean to you. Are you a helper? Has someone helped you? Send a voice memo to email@example.com with “THE CHECK IN” in the subject line.
This week, we spoke to Jamila Bradley, a Somerville resident who went to Venice, Italy to attend university, and got stuck in the country.
“I didn't decide to stay,” Bradley said. “We were calling the embassy every day, and then I think it was four days before the statement from [Vice President] Mike Pence that … ‘we’re doing our best to get the American people home.’ All the airlines to and from Italy completely shut down.”
Bradley said at the beginning of the lockdown, it seemed like something they could get through by just having dinner parties with their roommates. But after outside time became strictly limited, protests broke out and a prison break resulted in 20 inmates from a nearby prison escaping, things started to feel more serious.
“I think at first I was just really riding on the fact that I'm an American, so this wasn’t going to be a thing for me, and then as it slowly dawned on me that this is going to be my normal for a while,” they said. “I don't think I really felt anything besides like, I can't feel this right now. I can't actually sit with all of this. I need to feel like I'm in control in some way.”
Italy has the second highest number of coronavirus cases after China. As of Wednesday, Italy reported 683 new deaths in the coronavirus pandemic, bringing its total to 7,503.
Bradley said most of the messages we see about Italy on social media show people singing together in the street, but that positivity isn’t a constant state of mind.
“I went out at 2 a.m. to take a walk the other night, and I heard what sounded like an old woman screaming to God, like praying from her balcony,” Bradley said. “There are boats to move sick people that are in churches to the mainland to get to hospitals, and they're running all day long. There's helicopters. There is still a prison break and there's no information on how many people got out.”
Bradley said going to the grocery store is the highlight of their day, because it's really the only time they are legally permitted to leave the house. They say there's a big police presence everywhere, and police will stop people and check their grocery receipts to make sure they haven't spent more than an hour outside their homes.
Bradley also said they are getting increasingly frustrated with people who don't take the pandemic seriously. They said it's almost like they are in a version of what could be the future for people in the United States, and watching those people go out has been infuriating.
“People don't take it seriously until it's already a crisis for them,” Bradley said. “They’re like, oh, things are going down over there, but we're still fine, so let's not deal with it instead of being proactive.”
To cope, Bradley said they are working on an elaborate online matchmaking service to cultivate what they described as “new relationship energy.”
“If you meet a new friend or like a new person, that fuzzy feeling you get,” Bradley said. “You want to be your best self, and you’re ultra compassionate and curious. I think that's a connection feeling that we could all really use right now.”
If you have a story to share, please email a voice memo to firstname.lastname@example.org.