Fear passes from man to man
As one leaf passes its shudder
All at once the whole tree is trembling
And there is no sign of the wind.
There’s this tension here again; an ache in my jaw like toothache, and a feeling in my throat as if someone’s hand is around it. I don’t know if it’s the widespread suffering, or how the world might look afterwards, or if I’m waiting for something to happen to one of the people I love. Whatever it is, I’m on edge, ready for fight or flight, even though there’s not a lot I can do except stay calm and stay at home.
Our choir warm-up always started with shaking out the tension. It’s something animals do but we’ve forgotten. My dog does it when I put on her collar; I caught her skin in the snap-buckle once, years ago, and she still remembers. Ducks on the canal do it after a skirmish over bread; they waggle their tails, or stretch up and flap.
I do it now, shaking out my hands and arms and shoulders, letting them be loose, letting them flop and flap. No need to keep up a special face, so I let my jaw drop, my cheeks go slack. I shake my head from side-to-side like Jabba, the creature from Star Wars. I blow through loose horse lips, ‘bleurgh bleurgh’, not at all the sort of noise a person like me usually makes. I’m becoming childish in lockdown, not sure who I’ll be when I emerge. I blame the Joe Wicks workouts; the last one I did, he was wearing a frog costume and had me, and thousands of others, hopping around the room from one lily pad to the next.
I flap my hands into a rubbery boneless blur, up and down and side to side, my fingers flying in all directions, hitting each other with a soft slapping sound, little shocks like electricity flinging around inside.
And when I stop, my hands are floaty and tingling. And my whole body’s happy in its skin like it hasn’t felt in ages. The message of danger, looping around, brain to body and back again, has been disrupted, changed for a while to one of safety, of sitting in a comfy chair with the French windows open, a sleeping dog, sunshine and a warm breeze, the sound of someone’s lawnmower.