In the unlikely event that these posts sort of useful historical document, I should probably stop and address what a fairly average attack of the 2020 Pandemics is/was like, if you, future person has stumbled across this in the future.
So we’re cruising through the most gorgeous weekend ever and its myriad pleasures and it’s late Sunday afternoon and I decide to take a negroni to the deck and pull up the Times because I’m reckless and perhaps more of a masochist than I thought. I make it through all the typical furies, shits-stirrers and the steady thrum of grief from the mourner’s bench, and I’m feeling a little like I’ve leveled up in a video game because I’ve made it almost past the front page and haven’t had a single panic attack. I’m not even breaking a sweat!
Then I get to the line, one line–“mitigation hasn’t really worked”–and I find the line so heartrending, so literally breathtaking, that I can’t even get worked up about the next paragraph goes on to predict a minimum of 150,000 new deaths. Maybe 800,000. And then the lack of vaccines and treatments. And how the lack of vaccines and treatments will continue. And we’re reopening anyway because?
And I’m way off now spinning now on “mitigation hasn’t really worked” and not just because I worry that means I will never be able to see my mother in person again. Or that I just accept that my friends and family will continue to die for months and months before I get to hug them because there will never be a safe time to hug them again. So do I throw caution to the wind? Do I lock up twice as hard? What is the appropriate response, given everyone and everything that has been lost over the past eight weeks? The moms and dads and sisters and brothers and best friends and spouses and children and lovers and doctors and artists and mailmen and lawyers and musicians and supermarket stockers? The bars and theatres and restaurants and livelihoods and homes and savings and sense that things can ever, truly, not be nightmarish again? How do we endure the collective middle finger of an editorial shrug and a “mitigation doesn’t really work?” And now what? Do we make our wills? Do we max out our credit cards, do a few lines, throw a party and maybe try out BASE-jumping or skyscraper parkour because nothing matters and that sounds like a more fun way to go than slowly suffocating alone at home or in a quarantine-unit ICU? Do we continue to believe that anything works or anything helps because everything so far has been spitballs, shitty government response, bullshit models, idle conjectures and no real intention of sticking to any of it?
It weevils into me. That “mititation is not really working.” It’s the negative space in the tree branches above me. It’s the weird dark corner of the yard. I put the drink away and make herbal tea and ice cream and watch old movies. Halfway through, I feel my heart racing. I look up “elevated heart rate” and WebMD tells me I have everything and nothing. I watch dumb tv shows—“Outlander”—and find myself sobbing uncontrollably at a throwaway scene. I ask my best friend, “what is wrong with me?” She wonders if it’s that time of the month. Maybe, and I have lady issues and the forty-four year old hormones, but also, did I mention “mitigation is not really working.”
I cruise into the late night. I’m not tired. I chat with my mother. She tells me my grandmother isn’t doing well. Someone needs to take care of her. How do we do that? How could she do that? Without putting my grandmother at risk? Or herself at risk? Or the other people that share her household at risk? At least Nana’s in a state that hasn’t already reopened, that isn’t reopening until June at least. Not that it matters because “mitigation is not really working.” So the new normal is that we just accept a horrific level of death is acceptable and make impossible choices. And Mom doesn’t even know I’m freaking out because she has more than enough to worry about and she’s already cautioned me about why I should probably avoid the front page.
I read. I crawl into bed. I feel my heart pounding against the pillow like an invading army. I think, “I’m going to have crazy dreams.”But they aren’t. They’re good dreams. Swans and tall ships and kind blue-eyed men sort of dreams. I wake up to silvery sunlight. I make coffee. I walk out onto the porch and stare down at the ripples in the pond water, breeze blowing over my cheek. My brain stirs. I hear, “mitigation is not really working” still echoing around the back stairs, but for a minute or two the robins are louder.
And for now, at least, the Pandemics are a murmur, not a roar.
Speaking of blue-eyed men, I’m having a great time right now with the parallel joys of “Run”(HBO) and “Normal People” (Hulu), and the fact that Horny Irishmen With Serious Communication Deficiencies is having an unexpected cultural moment as a tv genre. I would have adored “Normal People” when I was nineteen, but I think everything—both fiction and plays–I wrote from age 19-25 was basically a variation on “Run.” Which also means that both shows make me blush and cringe a bit, whenever I watch. But, like, cringe in an entertaining, nostalgic sort of way.
Picture today is of some particularly choice graffiti near the Bynum Bridge, taken on a gray day in the not-too-distant past.
As of this writing, 1,171,046 people have recovered from COVID-19