Early in our new dark age, when I still vacillated between making Chaucer Jokes and wondering if we’d have bloody food riots because of pandemic-related shortages at the supermarket, I wrote almost daily about what I was experiencing stuck alone in my house with a fat cat, a Zoom subscription and a couple handles of gin. Then as the seasons changed as did the frequency, what was once a daily mediation on anxiety, morality and the simultaneously lonely vastness and suffocating intimacy of being a person in the center of history drifted toward the more pressing, became a thing I punched out a couple days a week, in response to news headlines or panic attacks, then weeks, then months In August I posted something about a broken exercise bike. In the beginning, I wrote these because I couldn’t think of anything else to do than to write this stuff down. And then for a time, I stopped writing about it because what else was there truly to say other than, I look forward to the days the pandemic is over.
To be clear, I wasn’t being overly optimistic. I knew it would be a slog, but I did believe we were drifting toward that moment, slowly perhaps, maybe too slowly to be counted. So I recalibrated to I look forward to the days when will not feel compelled to write about this pandemic anymore. I even thought I’d maybe reached that moment, when I started a few of these in October and then exiled them to the “Permanently Stalled Out. Can Safely Self-Plagiarize From This File, Dude” folder.
And here we are. In the first act of the latest disaster spectacular from the same virus who brought you Long Covid and The Delta Variant. Are we calling it Omigeddon? Armecron? A few days ago, I saw someone had typed it as Omnicorn, and I didn’t hate it. Sounds like a robot unicorn or a biodiesel company or maybe one of those giant, wastebasket sized tins of different varieties of (and often already stale) flavored popcorn that someone would give your parents for the holidays and it wouldn’t be particularly good, but you’d eat it anyway, even though it was fattening and got stuck in your braces. I like that one. Feels seasonal.
On the -5 Day of Christmas, Covid brought to me a PCR Test in advance of going home. This is supposed to be a formality, one of those last minute just to be totally safe moves to bolster my confidence about seeing family and celebrating something like a normal holiday the latter half of this week. But it takes about one character of a headline for me to be sailing through squalls of anxiety about it, despite being double-vaxxed and boostered. Impending Disaster is the flavor of the season. I swear I can taste it my egg nog, or maybe I just overdid the nutmeg.
It’s not like this train hasn’t been screaming into the station for a few weeks. Because I’m too impolite or too much of a masochist to turn off Gray Lady DOOM alerts at family events, I first learned that Omicron was neither a robot nor shorthand for a disgraced fraternity sometime between cranberry sauce and macaroni and cheese at Thanksgiving. I supposed the soupcon of panic-induced stomach acid helped in the digestion of so many carbs.
I drove home sad and angry that we were heading back into match of Worst Case Scenario Bingo, and was made even sadder and angrier that I wasn’t even surprised about it. I called a friend on the way home and we discussed whether, if Omicron were as ominous as it seemed, anyone might try to reinstate lockdown measures, which seemed sane, but unlikely as it would send the gun nuts and conspiracy theorists once more to the breach.
“It annoys me that I wonder will this lead to civil war when think about the possibility of a enforcing a federal vaccine mandate,” I said to a friend.
“It annoys me that I now wonder will this lead to civil war every time I read anything on the internet. Black Friday sales. Marvel movie reviews. PTA meeting notes. NextDoor Posts. Taylor Swift tweets” said a friend. “But, you know, the times.”
I wish I could be so blasé about it, but you guys know I’m not. For the last six days, even before the Omicron cases started doubling and then doubling doubling doubling in the US, I have been at least halfway convinced I’ve been having a heart attack all the time. I know. Hilarious. The still barely-rational part of my brain knows that people don’t have heart attacks for six days straight, and that whatever twinge of chest pain only improves with exercise and feels entirely attached to my nervous gurgling stomach. This is a case for more Pepcid, less caffeine and cheese, and maybe a trip to the GI on the backside (no pun intended) of the holidays.
But it’s weird how the Impending Disaster gets into your head, right? How googling Heart Failure at 3am after waking up from a bad dream for a middle of the night round of doom-scrolling (it’s back) doesn’t seem so crazy? How refusing to listen to the Charlie Brown Christmas record again until you know absolutely, 100% for sure that nothing’s upside down in your own little world and you are on the way celebrate holiday with your family doesn’t sound like childish superstition? How you don’t even want to think about the future anymore because the best case scenario is “it’s going to suck for a while, maybe suck a lot, for a long while, and then perhaps it will get better, perhaps for a short period of time?” How you’ve already started working on a New Year’s Resolution list consisting of simply, 1) Try to imagine this catastrophe is something you know you can get through” and 2) Start working on your sigma variant material soon-ish?
Christmas stories usually end on a up note. You know, choirs of angels, a bright star to guide them, a note from Santa Clause, Zuzu Bailey explaining the afterlife, Hans Gruber falling out of a skyscraper window. You know, joyful shit. I can’t promise that. I can give you only a little tinsel around a the big honking probably sucky unknown that is the coming days, weeks, and months. Also eggnog. Maybe a hot toddy if you stay for a nightcap.
So Merry Christmas. Happy Holidays. I hope we get where we’re going, wherever that is, with whatever joy we can wring out of this bullshit chapter of history. To quote the philosopher, let your heart be light. Or at the very least, try not to give yourself a heart attack by worrying about it.
In the meantime, I look forward to the days when will not feel compelled to write about this pandemic anymore.
Picture today is Walter, my cat, under the Christmas tree, where he believes he lives now.