#LoveIsNotTourism: 'Don't ever complain of being locked in with a significant other'
Cape Town – There was much to complain about under lockdown level 5 in South Africa, with our way of life restricted to such a great extent. Even under level 3 gripes persist for many reasons as the Covid-19 pandemic rages on.
There is no equality, however, when it comes to the coronavirus pandemic – some lives are affected far more than others.
Durbanite Jesse Jeffreys, for one, “finds it ironic how often I hear people complaining about being locked in with their significant other when I would give anything to be with Laura (McMahon) for even just a day“.
Post-traumatic stress is a term we are all familiar with, and Covid-19 and the lockdown’s after-effects will remain for many years to come. But Jesse and Laura, as well as many other binational couples and families, have already fallen victim to another term being bandied about, pre-traumatic stress – “a syndrome involving involuntary intrusive images and flash-forwards of haunting events that could possibly be experienced because of a major disruption".
Uncertainty is a highly stressful and harmful state when it “goes viral“.
South Africa-born and raised Jesse, 32, a general manager and student at a business school, and health worker and Master's student Laura, 34, from Canada, have been separated for an agonising four months already, with tons of paperwork filed and a government “missing in action“ leaving them no closer to an indication when they will be reunited again.
On a trip to Canada to obtain a certificate of non-impediment to marry in South Africa, the couple’s plans were derailed when Laura landed to the devastating news of South Africa's border closure.
Jesse’s hopes have been raised by business slowly returning to the “new normal” and aeroplanes tentatively returning to the sky, albeit only domestically for business reasons in South Africa. Deprived of even finding solace in “guilty pleasures“ such as cigarettes and alcohol, “hope“ is in constant need of resuscitation for couples who share their conundrum.
Just when you surmise the government’s regulations might be for our benefit and health, a taxi loaded to capacity comes roaring past (with no open window in sight), destroying the slither of logical reasoning left in one’s mind – a case of not knowing whether to cry or laugh hysterically.
“It is hard to stay positive when every day I drive to work and see the throngs of the taxis which are chockablock full, sometimes more than 100%, and people gathered in groups on the side of the road with no social distancing, and often still without masks,“ Jesse said.
“I hear of my friends having parties, once again enjoying their weekends, while I am sticking to all the rules and I don’t even get to spend time with the woman I love most in this world.
“This isn’t to say that everyone is out living their best lives, far from it, but at least they have support through it all. Every day I go to work and come home to a painfully empty house. The monotonous routine is draining.
“The separation is affecting my health and well-being; I struggle to get out of bed in the morning, underperform at work, and at school. After a hard day, I can’t even come home and confide in my partner. Sometimes I just need a hug.
“In four months, I haven’t even shaken a hand, let alone hugged the person I love. Video chatting by no means replaces face-to-face interactions; there is so much more to a relationship than this.
“I miss even the simple things; the shared smiles and laughs; reading together; cooking together; all things that are unnatural over video, especially as one feels compelled to fill the dead airspace. I am exhausted.
“I want to emphasise that I don’t want Laura to come home to be a tourist; I want her to come home to share my life with her, to stick to the lockdown rules together, just like I have been diligently complying with them ever since this began.
“Covid-19 is a long-term problem and, as such, requires a thoughtful, long-term solution; it is unfathomable to expect lovers and families to be separated until this ends; especially since many health experts believe this virus will adopt a seasonal pattern of illness, one that could carry on for years.
“At a very minimum, we implore the government to communicate their plan for our reunion. This is about more than just heartbreak, it is encroaching on our human rights; this is our lives, our sanity, our health, and our futures.
“We have been patient, we are tired of being left in the lurch, and we need to start planning for better days.
“With no communication from the government and no concrete plan for reunification, it begs the question, ’How many South Africans are being forced to consider leaving their home country in order to find sanctuary in a foreign country that will legitimise their union?’ ”
This petition, Love Is Essential! South Africa, Allow Bi-national Families to Reunite, has had nearly 2 000 signatures.