Love in Limbo
Written by Jess Love
Limbo. I’ve never fully experienced its wrath until now. I’ve lived in London for the past ten years whilst touring the world with various impressive companies, delighting in my privilege as a circus artist, allowing me to see some incredible things and meet amazing people. For at least three months of every year, I would return home to work and play on the unceded lands of Australia with my community, with my family.
When the world ended on 23rd March 2020, I was (selfishly) relieved. I had prayed to the gods of rest for my world to stop turning, and it did. Boris Johnson announced a 3-week lockdown; an hour of exercise, food/medicine shopping, or to get a covid test were the only exceptions for leaving the house- you weren’t even allowed to go to the doctor. I relished this forced home holiday. However, as we now know, this lockdown was far from temporary.
Three weeks turned into three months turned into all the months; day after day, my artist identity was being stripped away from me. I was losing my sense of self, my purpose, my privilege. As time dragged on, I tried not to mull over worst-case scenarios on the other side of the world, a car accident, a house fire, a death in the family. The pandemic had taken my streamlined access to Australia away; I was trapped and isolated. I couldn’t just jump on a flight home with a day’s notice. I pushed these ruminations from my daily thoughts and focused on the present and not the potential.
On the 17th November 2020, my eldest sister called me; it was midnight; my mum had experienced a stroke and was in emergency. I was frozen, petrified, spinning. She couldn’t speak, read, write. She didn’t know who I was or any of my sisters’ names. Fortunately, the bleed in her brain had not affected her movement so much; something to celebrate. I was freaking out, I hadn’t seen my parents for almost two years at this point, and the pandemic was threatening to double that. I needed to find a way home.
I asked around my fellow antipodeans to see if anyone had been trying to get back. I gathered heaps of excellent intel, but the main thing I gleaned was that it was gonna cost- a lot. I started crowdfunding and got in touch with one of two travel agents that was managing to get people into Australia. We booked three flights, all of which were cancelled, until finally I got onto a DFAT flight.
On January 16th, almost two months to the day of my sister calling me, I was boarding a flight to Perth for a two month visit to Brisbane. As luck would have it, our postponed season of Fuck Fabulous was rescheduled for April in Melbourne, so I decided to extend my trip a little longer and get onstage for the first time since March 2020.
Hotel Quarantine in Perth was nothing short of, well, prison! Opening windows was banned and mine were screwed shut just to be sure. For 15 days the only people I saw were dressed like they were extras in “28 Days” and they performed covid tests so aggressively they made my nose bleed.
After an annoying rigmarole, one of the guards contracting covid resulting in my extended stay, I was on a plane from Perth to Brisbane. I have never been happier in all my life. To hold my parents and live with them for two whole months was amazing. I helped teach my mum to read recipes again, I drove her to appointments, cleaned the house, I mowed the lawns and helped my dad drag heavy stuff on and off his trailer. Life was utterly normal, no mask wearing, no collective grief, no serious mental health in outrageous numbers.
I went to Melbourne for Fuck Fabulous but I had already started to feel anxious about returning to London. I missed my dog, my partner, my home. I didn’t miss the change though, the underlying grief which touched every single person.
I know seven people who died after contracting covid. Then there’s the little things, the fact our rubbish wasn’t taken for three months because everyone was sick and there was no one to drive the trucks. The mail just stopped being delivered for weeks on end. Prohibition came back in. Pop up morgues were built along the River Lea. That kind of trauma doesn’t just stop. That kind of trauma lives on. I didn’t want to live among it.
My privilege had never left me, here it was again, two passports, two options. I decided to stay in Melbourne, my home before immigrating to England. I set up in a share house, without my things, without my dog, without my love. Not knowing if I would return. Living in limbo. The news of international travel has been welcomed by many, but I can’t tell you how relieved I am at the idea of being able to go back to London and say goodbye to my friends, my life, all I’ve known for over a decade. I never expected to be here, not now, but such uncertainty is unbearable for my fragile state of mind. To be so far from family while the world rages on into uncertainty is not an option.
For now, I am here even if my heart is not. This was hard to write, I quietly cried for most of it. I have lost so much and yet I have lost nothing. Perspective and privilege- I am aware of you. I’m so grateful to every single person who contributed to me being able to get home. In a time when I was selling my furniture and possessions to pay my bills, my community came through, I can’t thank you enough. I’m still in limbo but I’m less scared, I’m still in limbo but my mum can read again, I’m still in limbo but I can see the future.