Once More Into the Open
As I take a stroll
through places I used to know
I see the playground alive,
full of laughing children,
bounding in unshackled joy.
Their parents sit there, quietly
smiling from the heart –
it's been far too long
they've had a ceiling for blue skies.
I see people going back to work,
people buying and selling
their life and their time
all of that for a little coin.
I see people fighting
with words and guns
at home and abroad
with loved ones
and demonized foreigners
when not too long ago
every goodbye could've been the last.
I see people have already forgotten
their new-found values
and the difference between
what they want and what they need.
Once more we take for granted
our loved ones, and ourselves.
Forgotten is the fear of tomorrow
as we sink back into the muck
of silly preoccupations
and petty squabbles.
Most of us will forget,
some never learnt,
and as normalcy returns,
so does the wool over our eyes.
the wasteland prophet said
“we are the hollow men we are the stuffed men headpiece filled with straw” because the prophet knew of dry nothings and foretold an end with a whimper and yet he hated jews so so much for prophets but we still seek them we still want easy answers from great “i can fix it” men and “jesus told me” men not modest thinkers who think longform over tweets and not experts because why pay for homeland security epidemic modeling or cdc specialist in china with our hard-earned tax dollars when the prophets will save us hollow prophets headpiece filled with straw if only we can tell the hollow from the hallowed nurses doctors grocery cashiers warehouse workers you see when the world burns the straw burns and we see whose head is flammable if only we believe the meek are blessed if only we prize the everyday if only we remember remember the third of November after losses too great to tally in a tiktok
Journal of the New Times
Saturday, May 2
May Day. No more trips to the store, or anywhere. The entire country is now effectively under house arrest. I was able to load up on dried foods, spices, and plenty of garlic. Looking forward to making some new dishes. Thank God for the Internet. It’s a lifeline.
Wednesday, May 20
It’s hard to get exercise without walking. I miss the fresh air and the park. We got word that my sister and her family were sent to a quarantine camp. No news yet, but we remain hopeful. Next door, the Crowders were lounging on the deck Herb built last year, enjoying the fine spring weather. Becky was wearing a bikini and Molly made a joke about me putting my eyes back into my skull, laughing and swatting my fanny. It was good to see the old smiling Molly again.
Tuesday, May 26
Further restrictions have been announced. The days of unlimited internet are over. It’s been too slow to stream anything for some days now, so perhaps it’s better to have it gone altogether. Plenty of books. The food is holding out nicely, and the National Guard has started twice-weekly deliveries of ration boxes.
Wednesday, June 10
There was a notice on today’s ration box that we’ll now be getting one a week instead of two. The contents have changed, too. We were getting brand name canned goods like Chef Boy-Ar-Dee and Progresso, but now it’s white government cans and military MREs. The quality is poor, but I guess I shouldn’t complain. Our tax dollars at work.
Monday, June 15
Molly has been awfully quiet. I have to coax her into eating, even when I use the best remainders of our pantry such as the jar of pesto she bought in Naples or the organic bone broth from Whole Foods. She spends long hours staring out the window, hands in her lap. We hardly talk at lately, my pale attempts at conversation lapsing into stolid silence.
Sunday, June 21
Molly says she hasn’t seen the Crowders on their deck in a long time. We had a few days of rain last week, so I just figured they were staying indoors. The sun came back out Tuesday and I guess I forgot about them. I wish we had some way of reaching out. It’s impossible to keep track of people since the cellphones went down, even our next-door neighbors. We dare not go outside with the Guard watching. They’ve been announcing zero tolerance through the loudspeakers. I’ve even heard gunshots, though far away.
Monday, June 22
I woke this morning to the sound of Molly sobbing downstairs. She told me she’d gotten up before dawn and gone next door, using the key Becky gave her when we watched their cat last Christmas. She said the Crowders lying on their kitchen floor. Apparently they’d been dead for several days. I risked the Guard and walked over to their house to hang out the red flag they gave us for emergencies, crossing the yard with my hands in the air like a newly freed hostage. Even though my mission was grim, it was so nice to be outside again.
Thursday, June 25
The guard finally came for the Crowders this morning. Molly stayed in our bedroom. She’s inconsolable. After the bodies were removed, a hazmat team came and boarded all the windows and doors. I saw a vapor escaping from the roof vents, so I guess they fogged it. The stories about that are true.
Sunday, June 28th
Molly is hot to the touch. She smiled and told me she feels like a loaf of fresh-baked bread. Her breath rattles like a boy running a stick along a picket fence.
Saturday, July 4th
The quietest Fourth I can remember. Molly seems better. Coughing less, and she took a little soup for supper. I went out on the front porch and lit a sparkler in celebration, but a National Guard Humvee drove by and slowed down when they saw me, so I quickly put it out and went back inside.
Thursday, July 11
We used to love walking the dogs together. Now Molly just sits in her rocker, pale blue eyes staring out at nothing. Her fever has returned and her cough is worse.
Monday, July 20
I heard a surveillance drone hovering over the house last night. I once heard they had infra-red cameras that can see through walls, but I’m pretty sure that’s just paranoia. I know for a fact that they are equipped with super-sensitive microphones, so I hope they haven’t heard Molly coughing. It’s so loud now I can even hear her when I’m in the basement. All day long I kept peeking through the curtains to peer up the empty street, jumping at every noise real or imagined.
Tuesday, July 21
The Guard came to the house. Molly was upstairs, coughing and coughing. I told her to keep quiet, cover her face with a pillow, but she was only semi-conscious and didn’t understand. It didn’t matter anyway. I went downstairs and met them at the door, thinking I would try to bluff them. They weren’t fooled and forced their way past me, their boots thundering up the stairs. I stood in the bedroom doorway while two of them held her down and swabbed her nose and throat. She struggled wildly, then went so still I wondered if they had killed her. I moved to stop them, but one of the guards pushed me against the wall with his baton. I stared into my own face reflected in the silver of his mask and wondered if they intentionally designed the respirators to look evil. After they left I sat and held Molly’s hand. She was sobbing and coughing but eventually fell asleep. I sat a long time thinking. The incident had reminded me of something. Finally, I remembered. When I was sixteen I spent a summer on a Montana ranch. One frigid morning, the rancher told me they were going to geld the male calves to make them into steers. The terrified animals were herded into a corral where a bunch of local boys stood waiting. One would throw a rope around a calf and throw it, then another two jumped on it to pin it down. The rancher came over, squatted down and expertly slit its crotch with a curved blade. He yanked out the stringy testicles and dropped them steaming into a bucket, then cauterized the wound with the electric prod dangling from his belt. Throughout the ordeal, the animals invariably were stunned to silence.
Saturday, September 26
The first of the leaves falling. It’s more than a month since they took Molly away. The guard has been by twice a week to draw my blood and make sure I’m not infected. I must be in the clear since they haven’t been back in at least ten days. I found my journal under a pile of old clothes and read back through the entries. I was almost done by the time I realized I was weeping. I know now that my wife is dead. Somehow I am still alive. Why?
Sunday, September 27
I’ve always thought of a journal as a series of letters to a future version of myself. By continuing to write entries, I therefore assert my belief that such an individual will exist, that I will survive all this. That it will mean something. Right now, I don’t know if any of that is true. The day outside looks the same as any other, save for the lack of people and cars. There are more birds and the occasional feral cat passing by my window. But there are also the armored Humvees that deliver the weekly ration boxes, men in camouflage suits with the wicked mirrored respirators and weapons at the ready. Once or twice I’ve heard the distant exchange of gunfire. I am alone in every way, and I don’t know if I want to live in such a world as this. I lack the conviction for either suicide or survival. It is a true dilemma.
Tuesday, October 6
This morning I saw myself in the mirror while changing clothes, so thin I resembled one of those photos of Holocaust survivors. It shamed me. Those people endured. I can too. I have decided to keep living, so I resume writing to my future self. Tell me, how does this turn out?
Wednesday, October 7
The power went off this morning. I wondered if it was permanent until an N.G.Humvee drove by. They don’t leave notes anymore, instead playing recorded messages through loudspeakers mounted on the roof. Usually it’s something about how the infection is almost over, how the president has done this or that. Today I was informed that to conserve resources we will now be allotted two hours of electricity per day. Our time is from ten AM to noon. Nothing about the other utilities.
Friday, October 8
Spent the day cleaning. I waited until 10 to vacuum, then spent the full two hours of power trying to fix the damned belt. I’ll try again tomorrow.
Sunday, October 10
Gave up on the vacuum and swept instead. Interesting thing. We’ve not had a dog since I gave Jounce away back in February, but there’s still an amazing amount of dog hair. everywhere, great balls of the stuff. I didn’t think of the dog at all while I swept it up, detached as if I was cleaning the house of a stranger. I also found Molly’s favorite Tiffany earring which she lost two years ago after a New Year’s party. Like the dog hair, it elicited no nostalgia in me at all, no feelings of any kind. I put the earring and the sweepings in a garbage bag and set it on the pile out back. I guess my heart is now officially sealed over.
Wednesday, October 15
The cleaning project is over. I wound up taking everything upstairs except the books and couch. It made quite a pile, filling the bedrooms and hall completely. No need to go up there ever again. I have blankets enough to stay warm, and a dresser full of durable clothes. I’m so glad I put in a gas water heater because hot showers are my one enduring luxury, though I imagine my consumption will eventually be noticed by the utility companies.
Sunday, October 18
A big storm blew through last night, the wind shrieking across the rooftops and ripping the bright autumn leaves from the trees. I woke to bare branches and streets covered with debris. One of the plywood sheets on the Crowder’s came off, leaving the black window behind. It looks like the house is winking at me. I was never a churchgoer, so Sundays aren’t special to me. I wonder how religious people are coping with this. Maybe they believe God is everywhere. I can’t see how they can now.
Monday, October 26
Kendra’s birthday. I came close to getting out her senior picture this morning, but decided against it. Best let sleeping dogs lie. When she was killed that horrible summer so long ago I never expected that I would look at the accident as a blessing. It is only because she and Molly are both gone that I can resign myself to this, whatever this is.
Wednesday, November 4
Frost came early this year. The Guard has been late with their ration boxes again. I’m sure sick of beans.
Wednesday, November 11
I’m not sure why I keep this journal up. When all this started I had ideas of how it would be, but none of it seems to matter. Every day is the same, so why even bother? But today I thought I’d write an entry because it’s Armistice Day. I’ve always called it that since I read Kurt Vonnegut as a kid. He thought it was more sacred than Veterans’ Day because when he was young most people believed that World War One really had ended all wars. I wish I could tell old Kurt that now finally managed to really do that, but not the way he hoped.
Thursday, December 17
Bulldozers have been through the neighborhood knocking down all the Red Flag houses and putting the wreckage into dump trucks and carting it away. The crews aren’t National Guard, but civilian workers in bright green suits with full respirators attached to their hard hats. It looks like my house is one of three left on the block. Interesting that they’re leaving the trees, as though someday they’ll build again.
Sunday, December 20
It’s been so long since I heard anything other than the loudspeaker announcements. I keep thinking I’ll drag out the record player, but I just don’t have the energy. I don’t even talk to myself.
Friday, December 25th
My grandmother told me that when she was little they draped all the mirrors in the house in black fabric whenever somebody died. I’d planned on doing that with the holidays, shrouding them and walking past without looking, but was astonished when I opened the front door to find not the usual Guard ration box but a Dean & Deluca holiday basket containing a tin of smoked turkey, several boxes of crackers, chocolate, hard candy, cans of Danish Cheese, and even a canned Virginia Ham. Best of all was an unopened fifth of Johnny Walker Red. I never was much of a drinker, but I went right away to get a glass from the kitchen and poured myself a generous knock and took it right down, feeling the delicious warmth spread through me like the fountain of youth. I had some crackers and cheese and a bit of the ham. It’s salted and should last a few days. The kitchen is almost as cold as a refrigerator anyway. I have no idea who left this treasure for me, but God bless you.
Friday, January 1
I should mention that there were no elections last year. That should be obvious to the reader, assuming history is still being written. From my window I can see the enormous billboard of his face superimposed against an American flag that towers over what’s left of this neighborhood. The loudspeakers now broadcast in the president’s voice.
Monday, January 18
Fever these past two weeks. It broke last night. My chest feels like a horse is standing on it, but I can somewhat breathe now.
Tuesday, January 19
Perhaps I am going live after all.
A disease amongst us was mighty, hell
The receipt of taxes, symptoms unheard
we believe, we disaster
that our will, hidden agendas
the ruins that we caked
A slippery band wagon
an october trojan horse
we haven't learnt anything at all
Since humanity is a disease
Why are we all not dead?
Because we distance ourself from those in need
Though the virus that did spread
asked for distance from ourselves
Now that we are free to roam the Earth
Humanity is still distant
unable to spread.
A slippery band wagon
an october trojan horse
we haven't learnt anything at all
Most of Humanity doesn’t give a fuck about anything but themselves
Have you noticed
the impact of the virus
on the world?
The clear blue waters,
the green trees,
the wild animals,
people caring for one another,
people actually giving a fuck about mental health,
safety a number one priority,
and time spent wisely?
has come out of this.
But as soon as
the Coronavirus ceases
it’s the end
(There won’t be clean oceans, more trees, welcoming arms, and contentment; for humanity will destroy any positive progress that we have made—we always do, eventually).
you have no excuse
to stand still.
that the world
started moving again,
you are expected to go
back to normal,
and you are
into the blinding light
of the day.
all those crazy sounds
and dancing colours
buzzing in your head.
and you -
you are this bare tree
that cannot recover
from one long lasting winter.
Change in the Age of Isolation
Locked up, isolating ourselves from a world brimming with animalistic hostility, we recognize the shortcomings of the society we have constructed for ourselves.
We realize the house we have built with our avarice and self-righteousness has a foundation of sand and a frame of matchsticks and scotch tape, ready to unravel with the faintest breath of the wind. A pantry besieged by panicking hens, riled up in a frenzy and pecking one another to death over scraps. Beds that are too rough and too small. A yard littered with the bones of the less fortunate, bleaching out in the sun whilst those within shower them with scorn. All the while the house creaks and groans, threatening to collapse and indiscriminately bury one and all within its rubble.
They say tragedy has a way of bringing people together, but in a nation of individualistic beasts it has driven us further apart; galvinized us in our beliefs that we live and die alone. That one can only ascend by standing on another's shoulders until we are a hysteric mass, kicking and clawing and scrambling over each other to reach the top. Unaware that the top is miles out of sight, let alone reach.
This pandemic has not shattered our society, it has shown us that our society has been shattered for time immemorial. Throughout the nation and throughout the world, the masses fall to their knees and pray things can return to normal, not realizing that deep down, this is the way things always were.
The disease didn't change us, it exposed who we really are, deep in the dark corners of our persona that we ignore and hide and pretend never existed.
So ask yourself: is the world we left behind a world worth going back to?
The Pandemic of 2020
It’s a virus, I was heard to repeat often, like the flu. We don’t pay this much attention to all the people passing around the flu and dying. Tens of thousands of people die of the flu every year. Why the heck are we paying so much attention to this? It’s not like people are getting something new and horrible like some skin eating disease or their organs melting, or bleeding from every pore of their bodies. That, that I would understand. But a respiratory infection? If we get this excited for a respiratory illness, how are we ever going to live normally again? The flu happens every year. Are we going to change our whole way of being now because of viruses? We were doing fine just as we were, I was heard to comment more than once.
Until, one day, I met a dear friend and her husband in a parking lot. Her husband was a lawyer with offices in China, the Philippines and Japan. We got to talking (six feet apart), and I was fussing, as I was wont to do: this is so ridiculous given the extreme lack of attention we give the flu every year and what’s going to happen in the future? Are we going to stop living every flu season? Her husband shut me down immediately. His contact in China had asked him what story we were being told and upon hearing the response, he said, we were being fed an extremely watered down version of their new reality. That, in fact, hundreds of thousands had succumbed to the disease. That crematoriums that had once operated only three times a week were working 24 hours a day, seven days a week. And the bodies were still piling up.
Well, that sobered me up quite a bit. I didn’t see that information anywhere and since I am not one to gossip or pass along knowledge that I cannot verify, I said nothing to anyone except my immediate family.
We followed the various new mandates. I got my sewing machine from the attic and started making cotton face masks. I only left the house once a week to buy groceries and bring goodies to my mom who lived about 45 minutes away in a neighboring state, (no hugs or kisses, maintaining a distance of six feet). And every day I watched the number of infected and dead grow, although I refused to watch the news or scroll social media with morbid interest, as most of my friends and family were doing. I would read various online newspapers from around the world in the morning and in the evening, but that was it. My husband worked on various garden projects – thank goodness it was spring, I thought at the time. I did a lot of baking – so I also did a lot of running. I took free online classes. I read. I wrote. I waited.
The first death that touched me was early on. My best friend’s brother died of Covid-19 some three weeks into the country taking the virus more seriously; no one had any idea where he got it. He was in a small town in the middle of nowhere. A few weeks later, my mom called to say her cousin’s daughter was in the ICU, in a medically-induced coma. Covid-19. A couple of months after that, a former student’s entire family of four came down with it despite all her many precautions (as an immunocompromised survivor of two bouts of cancer). Only her husband survived. And so it went…
And now, it’s spring again. It was so lovely to go outside today. All those pictures I saw of which I was deeply skeptical during the Pandemic of 2020, well, it turns out they were right. When the virus known as humanity was confined to home, it’s host, the earth, actually found it’s health improved. Waterways ran with clearer water than they had in decades. Air pollution dropped to levels unseen since before the Industrial Revolution. It appears the damage to the ozone layer could not be reversed, but it stopped worsening. The polar ice caps seemed to slow their melting. Species that were thought to be going extinct had a renaissance. To me, the sky above seems bluer…but it may just be a new appreciation for something once taken for granted.
The social world, of course, is very different as well. I can’t believe it’s only been 15 months since I first heard of Covid-19. Everyone is required to wear a mask nowadays; it’s the law. And if you are sick, you cannot go to public places. Unlike in the pre-Pandemic days, when jobs encouraged you to work sick, now people who cannot work from home are forbidden to work sick and work places are fined by the government if they fire workers for not working sick. Businesses are not required to pay indefinite sick leave, but they have to offer some. The government supplements that as well. There are now volunteer groups – and some government-sponsored groups – that you can call who will deliver food and medicine if you live alone and cannot get out due to illness.
Many businesses closed their offices permanently because they discovered they could work with equal efficiency and less chance for spreading disease with workers at home. Almost all of New York’s skyscrapers are empty now. Offices that do exist all have very spacious layouts – including the DMV and other government facilities. All hospitals and many large corporations are government-owned. They couldn’t survive without government loans and they couldn’t pay the loans back. Or at least, they haven’t yet. Cruises are a thing of the past. Too many sanitary and social distancing issues. Very few airlines remain, but the ones that do are all spacious, which is a positive outcome, I think. Unfortunately, all travel is domestic only – and even that just opened up again last month. Most countries continue to maintain closed borders except for business and government travel. And cargo, of course.
Restaurants are few and far between. Industrial kitchens had to be expanded to maintain the new, post-Pandemic distancing laws. Most still live off take-out and delivery since serving is impossible…although there are some restaurants that have introduced the use of robots to serve. I am dying to go to one, but there are none where we live, yet.
We are allowed to take a daily walk or run. Those of us whose first name starts with D and birth year ends with seven are allowed to run between the hours of 7 and 8 am, Mondays, Thursdays and Saturdays in my town. With the new restrictions, my husband and I can never walk together anymore, but at least we can get out. And we do video workouts together at home. None of the gyms were able to reopen after the Pandemic. They were seen as too dangerous to public health. (Those with pools are open for swimming, but you have to register for the limited slots.) So, too, all the massive indoor arenas. Many were repurposed as hospitals; others were simply shuttered. Smaller venues and movie theaters had the option to reopen if they renovated their layouts to maintain a distance of six feet between each chair. But what would be the point? No one is permitted to do theater anymore. You have to get too close to a fellow actor. And you can’t make a movie if you can’t get within six feet of someone. Movie theater attendance was dying before the Pandemic anyway. Streaming was preferred. Unfortunately, all the tv dramas and reality shows are repeats now. No new shows can tape except news programs or comedy shows that keep guests six feet away from the host and each other. There has been a growth in musical performances online with singers singing from their homes. Some theatrical performances have tried that as well, but they leave something to be desired. So, basically, everyone binge watches all the programs created before the Pandemic of 2020.
Team sports are a thing of the past. Tennis, biking, ping pong and swimming are on the rise. Running, of course. The Olympics have been terminated indefinitely. So, too, the World Cup, the European Cup, and all the other championships of team sports. All schools are virtual now. Teachers are honing their virtual teaching skills and lessons are all online for grades K-university. Many more parents are homeschooling. It is a shame though: Social skills were already dying before the Pandemic; they will fast become a thing of the past, I suspect.
Elections were cancelled last fall, of course. No one could leave their homes and online voting was deemed precarious; and, ultimately, they seemed unnecessary in such trying times. We have a tele-government now. Everyone tunes in avidly every day at noon to hear the updates about this season’s flu (worse than last year’s Covid-19), new mandates, new laws. The former Constitution was clearly unable to support the new reality, and was nullified some eight months into the Pandemic. Not clear when or if we will have a new one any time soon. Few are all that concerned with it around here.
Our shopping day is Tuesday. In order to discourage hoarding and to ensure there is enough for everyone on their given shopping day, purchases are limited to two items per family. There are fewer markets and they don’t have near the variety they once did, but at least there is food. There was a period during the worst days of the Pandemic when there was not enough. There weren’t enough people producing around the world or in the US; there weren’t enough people to transport; there weren’t enough people willing or able to show up to work to stock shelves and sell... There were too many sick or dying. It was a dark period. There was some rioting and looting, but not much. People were as afraid of getting Covid-19 as they were of not having enough to feed themselves and their families. Consequently, many died alone in their homes of starvation. When federal law forbade crossing state borders, I was no longer able to help my mother. When she stopped answering her phone, a part of me died.
At last, the darkness dissipates
as sun o'er yonder mountain breaks
and, timidly, the world awakes
as freedom beakons in plague's wake.
Too soon the sunlight parts the drapes
as the harsh, cruel hands of fate dictate
and nighttime's bliss is thus erased
as moon beams fade out, chased away.
Toward dawning warmth I tilt my face
as lonely pupils, shrinking, ache
and lo! my neighbors congregate
as once again the world awaits.
From under blankets my hand snakes
as cold seeps in, I reach for lace
and find you gone without a trace
as my heart stutters, then deflates.
I step outside, my great escape,
as songbirds trill with faith and grace
and chiseled stresses thus deflate
as dewy springtime winds hydrate.
I spring up, fearful, start to shake
as quiet drowns me in its lake
and 'round the furniture I race
as loneliness shoots through my veins.
Fresh earthen scents swirl, then abate
as fragile em'rald grasses quake
and footsteps mar this reclaimed space
as I emerge with heedless haste.
Stale notes of coffee I now chase
as if the past few weeks were fake
and never did we share a steak
as shadows grew and music played.
'Neath cornflow'r skies, a friend's embrace
as clouds, unnoticed, change their shapes
and we make plans to loose the brake
as commerce doth renew its pace.
Soft howling, broken, pawing gates
as I resume my default state
and wonder why I've been replaced
/again/ by work and dinner dates.
It’s June. Or December. Time doesn’t really matter anymore after you stop working--days and months are simplified to breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Plain granola crumbs, brown salad, cheap overcooked chicken.
I emerge outside. The weather is hot, or maybe cold. Either way, I’m pale, malnourished. During the many months of quarantine, I manage to graduate college online. Virtual graduation. I throw my fake hat up in the air and the Dean shakes my digitalized hand, squirting a glob of hand sanitizer as he moves on to the next video caller.
I don’t have a job--perhaps I won’t have one for years. I emerge outside, in the tentatively buzzing city, as someone who will need to beg for someone else’s job. On my hands and on my knees. I’ll be wearing gloves and knee pads, obviously. The guy telling me no will wear a mask, and I will pretend that I didn’t understand him. Thank you, I will say. I really needed this.
My college girlfriend breaks up with me. Frankly, it is straight out of nowhere. She is quarantined in her apartment and I am quarantined in mine and we Facetime constantly, repeating to ourselves that we are stronger than the virus. “I’ve never wanted you so badly,” I remember saying.
A long pause.
“I think,” she says, “I’m learning to live without you.”
I know that most college relationships are destined to end, but it’s supposed to be messy, drawn out; someone moving to the other side of the country, an affair, a secret-- not a clinically clean cut. I drive to her apartment at two in the morning during quarantine and she refuses to let me in. It isn’t safe. I could be infected, or maybe she is. Perhaps she is afraid that we would both get sick, unable to care for one another. Dying together, apart.
I emerge outside, and the streets are clean, not out of love, but out of fear. Nature is beautiful; the parks are exactly the same. Someone had maintained the bushes, the wild grass. Roaming about, I visit the cemetery. I feel bigger than usual, painfully aware of every step I take.
My grandmother is dead, years ago from cancer, before the pandemic. I kneel at her tombstone which is cleaner than anything else on earth and find myself afraid to touch it. Who else might have touched her grave? What horrible bacteria is stuck to the engravements of her name?
I leave after an hour, ashamed. It’s raining. Or maybe it’s snowing. I have no idea the month, the season, or the year. If I should be carrying an umbrella or wearing a parka. Only people with jobs and girlfriends and grandmothers are capable of keeping track of these things. I am unprepared for the weather. My body is naked in my unknowing. I have no control, yet in a way, nothing has control over me. It is a maddening feeling. I emerge outside, in the clean streets of the city, and search for the things that can control me.