I worry that the baby, who isn’t a baby anymore, but about to turn three, isn’t speaking enough. I google articles about how much a three-year-old should speak, and I write down every word and sentence he says for three days. One of the articles says that your three-year-old should be singing nursery rhymes by now. I google: Does Baby Shark count as a nursery rhyme? I try to teach the baby the nursery rhyme one potato, two potato. He wants to sing it with apples instead. He’s so bad at counting, he sings, three apple, lon apple, two apple four. Lon apple, three apple, four apple, sex! I place the apples in a line on the kitchen table and he says: Mummy, apples is yummy. Apples is nicht bad. Apples is yummy one. I nod and then I go back on my phone again, and google at what age they should start saying are instead of is. When I look up he is playing football with an apple, dangerously close to the television. He’s already broken one.
People say – friends say – I am going crazy about corona, and maybe I am. I feel this sense of relief when I hear a new conspiracy theory – not the Bill Gates one, which I find boring, just like I find Bill Gates boring. Because he is. He’s so boring, and besides, why would he bother, why would he want to chip us all, he would be better off just inventing a new type of computer, surely? But when someone tells me a new conspiracy theory, my body fills with relief, floods with relief, and I believe it for a second, for a millisecond at least. Remember when you were a kid and you forgot to eat and then your mum suddenly noticed and gave you a bowl of cornflakes and you felt your blood calming down, that’s how I feel when I hear a new conspiracy theory about corona. The conspiracy theory I like most is a bit racist, to be honest, but I like it anyway – maybe like is the wrong word? It tickles me. That China invented the virus to destroy the West, because the Chinese knew Westerners wouldn’t be obedient enough for it to not totally fuck up our economies. They unleashed it in China first because, well, they would have to, wouldn’t they, and also to deflect suspicion. I like this conspiracy theory because it would be such a neat trick, wouldn’t it, if true, like imagine a really exciting episode of Columbo where the murderer also ate a bit of the poisoned lobster but not enough to kill him, just enough to get his stomach pumped. Not enough to die himself. Sometimes I quite like the killers in Columbo.
Every morning when he wakes up I ask the baby: Disney or Kika? We both think Disney is better than Kika because Kika does too many documentaries about farms and stuff. I say this in words, the baby just shouts angrily at the screen DIS ONE BORING! DISNEY PEEEEEEEEEEEEEASE!
The words count and tell are so connected, aren’t they? In English you count potatoes but you recount a funny incident that happened to you at the post office. In German you zählen and erzählen. Probably the first stories human beings told each other were about how many people got eaten by the mammoth last night. Is it disrespectful to count the dead? I check Worldometer every day, I stare at the numbers, try to make sense of them. Would it be tacky if the German papers wrote about the dead, told us stories about the people who have died of (or with) corona? Would it be voyeuristic to know the names? Is it irrelevant how many of them are non-white? Would it be silly to have a minute’s silence for the victims? I remember all those Schweigeminuten in school, the sixty seconds going on forever, all I ever did was try not to laugh.
People tell me I am going crazy, friends tell me I am going crazy. I look at lists of dead people too much. Human beings want to understand, don’t they. Human beings want to understand things they don’t understand, they stare at things they don’t understand, and sometimes, out of frustration at not understanding, they project onto the chaos they see patterns and Ordnung that isn’t there. That’s what astrology is, isn’t it? I look at the lists of all the NHS staff that have died and I see a pattern – a clear pattern – Indian names, foreign names, even a lot of the names that could belong to a white person seem to me so old-fashioned that the dead nurse was probably, I think, black. How much am I noticing, how much am I projecting, when I notice where they come from – originally – and where they come from – in Britain.
When Brexit was happening, I could never understand why British people seemed offended that I identified with Polish people living in Britain. That I felt, somehow, that my years spent on German health insurance should somehow balance out all those hypochondriac Poles who took their kids to the doctor even when all they had was a cold, or maybe even a splinter. Now Corona is happening and I can’t completely understand why German people feel offended that I identify with the dead in Britain who are so much like me. I know where they’re coming from, I know where they come from. I look at the lists and I recognize the names of the hospitals. I look at the lists and the Namen kommen mir bekannt vor. I know what their lives were like.
People think – friends think – I am going crazy because I think we in Germany should count our dead.
People think – friends think – I am slightly Nazi because I would like to know how many of the German dead are non-white.
Maybe they’re right. I feel like Corona has shown me a fascist side to myself that I never knew until now. Every day I take a Vitamin D tablet – actually I take two – actually I properly fucking overdose on Vitamin D – and I feel like I know what Donald Trump meant, as much as I hate him, about injecting disinfectant into your veins to kill of the virus. Sunshine’s a disinfectant, my mother used to say, and I imagine the Vitamin D tablet, a tiny pill of sunshine, like those rolled up balls of paper you used to eat in school out of boredom, killing something inside me, something ugly and inferior, something disgusting, flushing it out, blinding racism with a torch like it’s being tortured, making up for something inside me, something fundamentally wrong. People say it’s Nazi to want to know how many of the German dead are non-white, but they also, at the same time, talk about the dead in Britain and the United States like it’s a different world, like they’re a different species. People don’t talk about the people who have died in Germany, or will die, or are dying right now. I’d like to talk about them, maybe I am going crazy. I think we should count our dead, I know people hate that journalistic we but I think in this case I’m allowed to use it, we should count our dead, we should count our dead, we should tell the dead people’s stories, because those dead people literally belong to Germany, they belong to us. Maybe I am wrong. Maybe I should just say „Pech gehabt.“ Maybe it’s disrespectful to think of the numbers as human beings who have died, and respectful to say „Pech gehabt, er hätte sich auch an einem Kinderei verschlücken können. Das ist auch kein schöner Tod.“
But I dunno, I think we should count our dead properly, and tell their stories.
I crumble up some Vitamin D tablets and mix it in with mashed potatoes. I’m not completely sure if vitamins stop working if they get warmed up before they get inside your belly? I should ahve paid more attention in science class, I think, then I could’ve become a scientist and worked on a vaccine. I wonder why we say one potato, two potato, and not one potato, two potatoes, but I feel like I kind of know why. It’s because each potato is a new potato is different, each potato is new. You count each potato separately. You hold each and every potato in your hand, just for a second. I sprinkle some magnesium powder into the mashed potatoes, too. I just feel like it, to be honest. But it might be a total waste of magnesium.