How long can the Virus COVID-19 stay active on a surface like metal or wood? How long can a smile last from a passerby on a downtown street in someone’s heart? How many times can I rearrange my sock drawer now that I seem to be quarantined? These are tough questions.
I now find myself with an inordinate amount of time and therefore, a wild and absurd amount of isolation has now become my friend. Everything seems to have ground to a halt.
I am drawn to watching U.S. television news media; it’s like a multi-vehicle crash that I cannot bring myself to look away from. These times we are in feel hugely cinematic, like some kind of twisted David Cronenberg science fiction flick.
So, I go for walks. A lot of them. I take naps. A lot of them. I try to reach out on social media, I download Viber and What’s App and Zoom and Skype in an attempt to visually see the other self-isolaters around the globe, but ultimately I feel lonesome. I can’t help it. I thought I was alone before all this began and now everything is magnified twenty-fold. My daily question to friends and acquaintances on social media or by phone is mainly, “Hey, how are you holding up? Are you okay?” That’s the new way to begin all my communiques.
Watching the news I see that some perennials, or millennials or whatever they’re called, are basking in crowded tropical hot spots, drinking cocktails with umbrellas at the water’s edge without a care in the world, like, somehow sand and sun will somehow make them immune to the deadly virus that has now taken over absolutely every aspect of our daily lives. Social distancing is the norm. No more dinner parties or playdates — it’s time to pray and reflect and do all those things you’ve been putting off at the old homestead.
What’s different today? I guess first off, is when I visit my local coffee shop, Boiling Over, I must now take my espresso machiato “to go” as the seats have all been put away, as they don’t want folks sticking around and commiserating in herds, thus spreading the invisible virus. Understandable — but disappointing. That was one of my main hubs of social structure.
I ventured to Mikael’s bakery shop and they are serving one customer at a time in the store, so you have to wait outside until you can be served. There is no template for these times. We’ve never been through something like this. Each day brings up new rules.
I just got off the phone with my friend Kim who was on a two-week vacation in Cuba. She has had to return a week early and is now in quarantine at her place, a rude awakening, as they didn’t even have full internet down there and were blissfully unaware of what the world has been up against.
“It’s going to be tough and weird,” she told me, “but I understand it’s what I have to do. I could have this thing and not even know it.”
I’ve done all the shopping that one man can do. Just how long am I buying groceries for, anyway? And just how much toilet paper can one human use? The multiple three-ply rolls don’t distinguish my fears one bit, but I am following what everyone else seems to have been doing before me.
Today it is reported that an Amazon warehouse worker has been infected, so if that’s the case, just how many workers has she come into contact with? The truth is nobody knows. Two members of congress in the U.S. have tested positive lately. And there are 500 new deaths in Italy. Athletes on national hockey and basketball teams have now begun to test positive for the virus. In Toronto, basically all bars, clubs and cafes have shut down with the exception of some being allowed to provide take-out and delivery service, for now. But that could all change tomorrow.
Hospitals are preparing for waves of new patients that they admit are not ready to handle. Entire sports teams have been told to start looking for apartments as they have been told they will be not coming home anytime soon. We are on the brink of a recession.
All this and more runs through my head as I accompany my 80-year-old mother on our daily walk around the block, looking at the few cars that pass us and even fewer pedestrians out for a stroll. Strange times.
As I take a ride on the highway with a friend up to Huntsville’s Deerhurst Inn, where there are usually crowds of people, it is more reminiscent of a ghost town, like a zombie apocalypse has finally occurred but all the bodies have magically vanished.
I pray that we get through all this, somehow.