‘What are we holding onto, Sam?
That there’s some good, in this world, Mr Frodo. And it’s worth fighting for. ‘

I am a paranoid schizoaffective; at least, that’s what it says in my medical file. But paranoia seems redundant now, with the world swept up in disaster. Reality is worse than what I can imagine.

I read the news, which seems like fiction. We are living in the pages of the future’s history books. One day, my grandchildren will ask me: what were you doing, when the pandemic struck? Were you a key worker? Were you fighting in the front lines?

No, I was watching Lord of the Rings. And I was fighting my own battle against myself, and the part of my brain that wants to kill me.

In 2020, I stop sleeping on Sunday nights. This sacrifice is made to satisfy the ruling force that is obsessive-compulsive disorder. The bellow within says: if I watch Sundays bleed into Mondays, I will spend another week COVID-free.

Weeks go by. I cut up an old T-shirt to make a mask to wear to Asda. I wash my hands until the skin on my fingers creeps away from the nail. I send letters to my friends. Snail mail. Old school.

People we know are sick. People we know are dying.

I watch Lord of the Rings.

There is joy to be found in acts of courage, and in earnest overtures of fellowship. There is nothing insincere, nothing ironic, about Lord of the Rings. Men, in Middle Earth, squeeze each other’s hands. They embrace, they kiss each other’s foreheads.

In 2020, people are dying without anyone to kiss them goodbye. Flickering on my television screen, Boromir uses his final breath in an act of admiration, love, courage. As he dies, he is held.

Here in 2020, we are fighting an enemy with no weak spot in its armour. Lord of the Rings gives us the catharsis of an enemy who plays fair; who dies when he is killed.

I know that somewhere in a lab, COVID is being fought, valiantly, by scientists.

I am not a scientist. I watch Lord of the Rings.

I learn that tiny acts of kindness are great and wise deeds. That the smallest person has the power to affect change. I believe in fellowship. I believe that good will out.

I rush at the battles before me; I leave tins of food outside the front door. I show up for friends. I live, and go on living.

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