One, Two, Next



She started listening to podcasts the year before, hooked after listening to a colleague talk enthusiastically about an interesting story. That was how she first heard about the mystery illness. A newsworthy morsel, but one that didn’t warrant further attention. She just noted it existed overseas and that it was being monitored.

But she also had anxiety. It developed as she sunk deeper into working overtime, disallowing herself to sit with her feelings. An abusive relationship that replicated deeper wounds from her past, cycling and circling, and making her unwell. Hearing about the mystery illness, she searched the internet for more information. A slight anxiety began as a little chill of fear. Was this something she needed to be more worried about? Her shoulders relaxed as she breathed out and made the mental calculations in her head. There had been other viruses that ended up contained, SARS and MERS. Australia was an island nation, not that close to the rest of the world, either geographically, culturally, or socially. Australia loves a good hard border against non-white countries, she thought to herself, it’s unlikely to become a problem here.

But the virus did arrive in Australia, and as the number of cases rose exponentially, the illness revealed itself to be far too easy to catch and spread. She was visiting family in Adelaide that month, and that little chill of fear she felt before? Well, it spread across her whole body.


One day, as she left the hospital, she saw a family crowded outside a hospice window, communicating with someone who lay inside. The family outside the window spoke to each other in Vietnamese, but for the person inside there were no words, just gestures of love and care. The seven-day lockdown announced earlier in the year turned into what felt like endless months of staying indoors, and fear gripped her entirety as the number of infections continued to rise. All around Sunshine Hospital, families, friends, and communities sat in their houses, or waited outside hospice windows, unable to visit those inside for fear of passing on the virus. Now, she was one of them.

The lockdown was long and difficult. Curfews and five-kilometre movement restrictions, permits to move about the city. She endured them to keep safe, as much as she criticised police involvement in public health. The fear came in waves, and she was always on edge.

All this time, her anxiety-brain thought it was the virus that would kill her and her husband, both vulnerable with chronic illness. She was exhausted from constantly thinking about how to keep safe. She focused solely on the virus and then one day her husband went to the hospital for his regular dialysis, and he didn’t come home for five weeks.


It took her a long time to feel well again.

After her husband’s stroke, he got sick again before he started to rebuild. Her anxiety crept up and up until she was unable to shake the constant feeling that something – everything – could go horribly wrong. Lockdowns, grey skies, work overload, fear for her husband’s health, fear of the virus, not seeing her family, unable to return home. The pandemic pushed her even closer to the edge she was already falling off, and her well-being was gradually, but steadily, ground down.

By January, the whole country was ‘living with the virus’, but she was not coping at all.

How are we meant to just keep working through this all? Deep down she knew she had it better than others. She thought of the family standing at the hospice windows, of the workers heading out of their homes catching the virus, of the non-white people sent to Christmas Island early in the pandemic, of the non-white people locked in housing towers in inner-city Melbourne.

Was her anxiety-brain or her pessimism pushing its way to the surface?

She knew the virus was not going away, that it would always be the most vulnerable who were thrown away and discarded. She thought back to when the virus first arrived and remembered her first thoughts about Australia’s love of hard borders. At the edge of hopelessness, looking down into the void, she pivoted on her heels, turned, and walked the other way.

This No Compass edition is supported by Multicultural Arts Victoria, as a part of the 2022 Ahead of the Curve Commissions.

Eugenia Flynn

Author: Eugenia Flynn

Eugenia Flynn is a writer, arts worker and community organiser. As an Aboriginal (Larrakia and Tiwi), Chinese Malaysian and Muslim woman, Eugenia works within her multiple communities to create change through literature, art, politics and community engagement. Eugenia's thoughts on the politics of race, gender and culture have been published widely. Her essays, articles and short stories have been published in IndigenousX, NITV, the Guardian Australia, Peril magazine and the anthology #MeToo: Stories From the Australian Movement</i<.

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