COVID brought back memories VIVID 

Liliana sat by the window of her Palermo home staring at the empty street.

From the background nonstop telecasting about the virus was going on the TV.  She heard, Italy is facing the gravest tragedy since the Second World War. A hundred more people had died in Sicily. She looked at the screen.

Her mind wandered many years ago when the radio reported such numbers. It was in 1943 when the Fascist power in Italy had been neutralised by the Allied forces in the Second World War. Her older brother, Adriano, still at teenage, was one of the prisoners of war massacred by the Allied forces in the capture of the Biscare airfield. The war had taken their father earlier.

She was in her teens then and was in school.

Liliana was born in this very house 93 years ago. Many years after the war she had become a nurse like her mother. All of 21 then she had found the love of her life, the handsome Dr Gabriele. Despite her friends cautioning her against Gabriele’s debonaire womanizing ways,  she saw true love in his eyes and fell for him. A few years later, Gabriele had moved to Rome for higher training. He had promised to come back in two years but never did. He found a city girl and stayed on. This had dealt a heavy blow to Liliana. “How did her true love for him failed? Were his loving words all fake? “Poor girl, she lost faith in men.

Liliana continued to live with her mother till she died. Since then she learnt to live alone,  learnt to take comfort from the chirping birds, pouring rain, whistling sea wind, traffic noise and the sirens from the ambulance.

That siren grew louder and more frequent when TV news started talking about Corona outbreak. Then came the lock down to tackle the coronavirus. . It made the town and it’s streets deserted. Every ambulance siren reminded her of the war air -raid sirens. Each time she heard them, fewer neighbours have remained.

Three days ago the lockdown of Spain was announced.

Liliana felt a shiver in her body. “It must be the cold draught from the sea. Let me close the window. ”

There was a knock on the door. Liliana opened it. “O dear, Here is your box.”, said Marco, the friendly grocer, kind enough to home deliver  groceries.

“Thanks Marco. How kind of you ”

“I got everything from your list except eggs and bread. We are running short of supply. There is rationing.”

“Oh dear, I don’t remember rationing since the war,”said Liliana.

“Now it’s a different war Liliana. The whole world is on one side and the virus on the other.We live in strange times.”

“Strange times indeed. In the war we sent millions very young to fight for us. To keep us safe they were sent outside the border. Now we are closing borders and locking ourselves in. Hope we make through this one. ” Liliana said sadly.”

“I am sure we will ! See you tomorrow with eggs and bread.” Marco left.

Another day had passed and report of lockdowns of many more European countries came to light.

Liliana thought she had slight temperature. There was the familiar knock.Marco delivered eggs and bread

“You look tired Liliana. Is everything OK? ”

“I think I am running fever. I will take paracetamol now.. ”

“Do you have enough paracetamol? That’s running off fast too. I have some in stock. Please ring me if you need any. And take care. ”

Next day the TV reported the lock down of India, the country with a vast  population, for three weeks. Liliana  felt breathless. “I must turn the TV off. It’s scary. “She made scrambled eggs. She took a piece of bread to the garden and fed it to the pigeons. There aren’t any tourists to feed the innocent creatures.

She felt her muscle ache. “I shouldn’t have come to the garden”.She went in and dozed off.

She woke up to to the familiar knock on the door.But it was evening. Why Marco? O he had told he would come at dusk to deliver the paracetamol. She struggled to get up and by the time she opened the door, she was gasping for breath. “Oh Liliana,  let me call  an ambulance. ”

Liliana  regained her consciousness  in the hospital bed, a young nurse examining  her ventilator. Liliana smiled at her. “So I got the virus!

“The nurse smiled  back. “Yes but don’t be afraid. You will be fine”.

“Dear I am not afraid. I just don’t want to use  up a ventilator if it could save the life  of a younger person. ”

“For us every life is important. Please take rest. The doctor will come in the afternoon. ”

She was in isolation. She heard the ventilator humming. Time went by very slowly. Finally someone entered the room, a lady doctor in her early 70s. Lilian remembered the Italian PM urging the retired doctors to come and help in the hospital.

The doctor came up and exclaimed, ” I am Dr Lilian , we share the same name. “The doctor examined her and nodded her head, “You are making good progress.”

“I am impressed with your dedication doctor,coming back from retirement to serve the country.”

“It’s not entirely selfless. I always wanted to visit Palermo. My dad always spoke about his time here. Shortly before his death, he told me that he met his only true love in  this town and I was named after her. ”

“Who was your dad? I might have known him”.Liliana gasped  anxiously.

“You might have. He worked as a junior doctor before leaving for Rome. His name was Gabriele Rossi. ”

Liliana felt the loneliness leaving her suddenly.

The TV in the isolation room reported that Italy has finally conquered the virus and ready to lift the lockdown.



Photo By: Geralt

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