So Lucky

 

Every morning I scroll through the feed on my phone that is riddled with misinformation, warnings and the imminent threat of it filling my mind as I get ready to leave for work. I make sure I’m wearing my evil eye.

It’s 2020 and like many in Australia, I haven’t felt the wrath of it yet.

I’m so lucky to be here.

I used to despise that phrase when people would learn where my family migrated from. Now I say it to myself. Holding up a QR code, I repeat a friendly reminder to patrons over and over again until the words have lost meaning.

“Could you please check-in before entering the venue? Thanks.”

A white man in his mid-50s does not want to. He doesn’t want to be tracked by the government.

“Do you even know someone who’s died from it?”

Before I could answer, the woman beside him pipes up.

“Leave the poor girl alone, she doesn’t want to hear about it. She’s just doing her job.”

I am just doing my job. He reluctantly checks in.

The week before this, my mother had told me about her cousin in Iran who got it.

He passed away. I do know someone who died from it.

Not that he would have believed me.

Weeks go past and I hear the news of others back home getting it, thankfully they survive. My auntie video calls us while we are celebrating my niece’s birthday with a picnic in a park.

“Alo!” Mum shouts into the phone.

“I can hear you!” A familiar voice responds.

The video quality is not great but it is good enough to make out her face and reaction to seeing us for the first time in a while. After the usual pleasantries are asked, the conversation turns to it.

“I’m scared to leave the house but we have no choice. The boys have to work to feed their families…”, my Auntie laments.

Unlike here, my cousins don’t have the luxury to stay home and receive payments from the government. As they continue to talk about their respective lives my Auntie begins to get ready to leave the house. This time it isn’t the government-mandated headscarf that I notice, but the latex gloves, surgical mask, and clear face shield cover the rest of her usually visible body.

She’s going to buy fresh bread from the baker down the road. The stress of the short trip is noticeable in her voice. My mother tells her not to stay outside for too long.

“Mum, I’m sure she’s aware of the risks” I whisper.

When they bid each other farewell, mum hangs up the phone. The concern on her face deepens and she pauses. After what seemed like a lifetime of silence mum finally says,

“If only she came here when we did, her life would have been so much easier. We are lucky to be here.”

It hits Australia one state at a time and the numbers of cases begin to rise. Trapped inside my home, anxiety over it consumes my mind.

Adelaide is yet to be a hot spot although talk of a vaccine becomes a daily topic. All of a sudden it seems everyone has an opinion on it. When the day finally comes for me to ‘roll up my sleeve’, I do it without hesitation. A wave of relief comes over me as I feel like now I am now a little more protected from getting seriously ill from it.

Over Instagram, I connect with some friends and family back in Iran and I ask about how they’re managing it and if they have received their vaccine shot yet?

“Some people are flying to Armenia to get their vaccine, there’s not enough for us here…”

I can not imagine having to fly to another country to receive a vaccine that we not only receive here for free, but the government is literally begging people to take.

“We just stay home because people are really dying over here.”

A sense of guilt brews inside me and I change the subject, but everything I talk about feels uncomfortably privileged. The once long conversations turn into emoji-sized reactions.

I think back to the vitriol I hear back in Australia about microchips and brain-altering compounds hidden in the vaccine. How lucky are we to have an option to have something that could potentially save our life or our loved ones.

I’m so lucky to be here.

As days go by, sanitising my hands becomes a common occurrence when entering my house. Anxiety over contracting it is still in the back of our minds although there has not been a local case of it in months.

After my weekly supermarket trip, I arrive home, pull out my phone and scroll mindlessly unaware of the time. The photographs of two young women of colour are pasted all over my news feed alongside articles featuring the words ‘SUPERSPREADERS’ and ‘CRIMINAL DECEIT’.

I disregard all the warning signals inside my mind telling me not to read the comments. No good would come of it. Alas, I give in to my temptation, and tap.

I’m once again reminded of why I despise the phrase, “You’re so lucky to be here”.

 


Thumbnail photo by Anna Shvets from Pexels

Author: Nelya Valamanesh

Nelya Valamanesh is an Adelaide-based artist, who has developed and produced works on a range of different platforms. Nelya’s vision through all her creative avenues has been to speak her truth as a proud queer Persian/Australian woman and elevate unspoken voices of colour and other marginalised groups.

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