Poor Ingmar By D.I. Jolly
Having spent most of his adult life behind a desk, Ingmar had no idea what to do the day the world locked down. He’d often referred to his grey cubical as his padded cell, the small space in the office that was his, and while he never felt fully safe there. It was as comfortable as he’d ever been.
So, to suddenly be told to stay home and stay calm and to breathe, actually made him feel freer than he had since being a child. The whole world was now just a two-room apartment and he could finally see the borders of his life. He could see the start and end, and he finally felt like he could get a handle on things.
As hours turned into days and then into weeks, he realised that he’d spent his entire life in a persistent state of overwhelm. From the moment he was born, taken from his small pink padded room and brought out into the big bright world of lights and darks, and a never-ending horizon, he felt like he’d missed that one piece of information that told him how to be ok. And he never stopped feeling like he was one step behind on everything.
But now, now he got it. He finally caught up. He knew every inch of his world and on the days when he had to venture out for fresh food and fresh-ish air, he locked himself up behind earphones and a mask and he felt secure in his anonymity. He no longer feared running into someone who might recognise him. He wasn’t afraid of being mistaken for someone he wasn’t or asked what the time was, or for directions. He just went to the store, got what he got, and came home. Came back to his world.
He was happier than he’d ever been, living his two-room life. He worked from home, he shopped online, he had an imaginary girlfriend in the shape of Nice_Nancy the camgirl, and when he didn’t want to speak to anyone he didn’t have to. He’d started reading the books he’d always wanted to read, he listened to lectures, watched classic movies, and sometimes he’d just spend an hour or two on the floor really listening to great music, and enjoying his ever-growing hair. Learning what it meant to not have a care in the world.
The only thing he feared, was the worlding going back to, “normal”. To start working in an office again, and speaking to people again. He feared the world getting bigger and running away from him, and him not being able to catch up. Being left behind, alone again in a big world he didn’t understand. Even thinking about it would drive him to curl up of the floor of the shower hoping that the water would wash away his bad thoughts.
Eventually, though, the dream had to end, and the world started to open back up. And while the world rejoiced Ingmar spent more and more time on the floor of the shower and less and less time with books, music, movies and Nice_Nancy. Social media exploded with street parties and joy, and while others threw brightly coloured chalk at each other, turning their world pink and blue and yellow, his had started to turn grey.
There was a timer on his happiness now, and with each tick, music lost its passion, food lost its taste and Nice_Nancy got older. The day the world was declared “normal” was the first time he felt anxious that people might think he was weird for wearing his mask to the store and was the day he started screaming.
People then came, his doorbell rang, his door knocked and no amount of water would wash away his fears. When his door was kicked in and hands reached for him, all he asked for was his mask and his earphones.
It wasn’t until he was being wheeled through the bright white hospital that the nurse released that he hadn’t stopped crying. He, however, was in no fit state to notice the bright blue eyes of Nice_Nancy. But he did feel a bit better when she held his hand and told him that everything was going to be just fine. She then gave him her mask, before she locked the door to his small pink room. Where finally, behind his blue mask, he felt the world start to get smaller again. He felt like he could breathe again. Like he could catch up, and he could feel safe.