The wind is blowing violently outside my window, messing up the flowers, herbs and vegetables I so carefully planted and potted a day before the lockdown started.

The shops are slowly reopening, traffic is picking up again, with their noises and fumes. Bad tempers are flaring and erupting faster than usual. Patience seems to have become a thing of the past and belong to pre-corona times. It is rather ironic that one should become less patient when granted the gift of time.

Boundaries, boundaries, boundaries.

People need boundaries. Time is just another way of setting up boundaries.

In jails, boundaries are somewhat floating, with some boundaries such as walls and hedges very clearly marked and impassable, while others, the ones pertaining to each person’s personal space much less so.

However, the scene captured in a rather horrid and haunting photo that appeared in an article in the NYT, was completely beyond that any of that.

The photo showed hundreds of prisoners stripped to their underwear, crammed together, sitting in a snake-like formation that covered the entire surface of the prion’s courtyard, with their legs open just enough to accommodate another inmate, their hands tied behind their backs, encased into one another like so many lego pieces, the prisoners were pressed against each other, their breath and sweat mixing against their will, the beginning and end of each hard to discern, all together in this revolting scene of human humiliation.

For some reason, the detail that most shocked me was the fact they were wearing face masks. It was a real travesty of their situation. The incongruity and added torture of those facemasks are hard to fathom. It was adding insult to injury, a joke of the lowest and dirtiest kind. The guards mistreating the prisoners must have realised that with such closeness a mask was but a farce. El Salvador’s Corona policies are very strict and the measures to protect the population enforced religiously.

Photo of the prison courtyard (c) El Salvador Presidency Press Office

So many boundaries crossed over at once in a place so full of them. Even though the newspapers and websites are not wont of horrible pictures, this one has stung and will remain with me for much longer than the virus.

I would like to end on a positive note of hope but cannot find one. Is it my lack of patience, the loss of my personal space at home, the ever-changing and now completely blurred boundaries between home and work and family and colleagues? As I write those words, a notification appears on my screen advertising an article titled “Blurring Reality”, another blurred boundary between what we read what we say and what appears on our screens next. Just like this new world we are slowly but inevitably entering.

What happens once we all take off our masks is perhaps the scariest of all.

Photo Credit


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