Updated: May 14, 2020
I write to you on Day 56 of Quarantine. What “Quarantine” means has shifted slightly, as Utah moved last week from Red to Orange, whatever that means. What it actually means is that everyone is driving around in their cars now, the roads seem busier and when my friend and I descended from our hike yesterday we saw cars parked along Wasatch Boulevard, both ways, because the parking lot was full.
What this means is that people are beginning to feel like maybe things will be Back to Normal even though the rest of us realize that there is No Normal, there will never again be Any Normal. What we have here is Cognitive Dissonance on a National Scale and I walk around my neighborhood or, like yesterday, on a hiking trail and I seem like a normal human, but I actually want to scream: Wake up and Smell the Corona Virus! Which, if it had a smell, would smell like bear shit and spray on tan, if you know what I mean.
My Cognitive Dissonance arises from the fact that, as I walked around my neighborhood last week, I did so listening to the audiobook Becoming by Michelle Obama. As she listed the many accomplishments of Obama’s presidency, I found myself wanting to sit down on the curb and sob uncontrollably. How, I ask you, America, did we go from Obama to this? THIS? I can’t even bring myself to say the name or attach the word President to it, because it is so cosmically unbelievable as to be the stuff of melodramatic fiction. If my student wrote a scenario like the 2016 election, I would write in the margin, NO ONE WILL BELIEVE THIS.
The most profound realization I had while listening to Becoming was that we, America, a certain population of Americans, have been living in a fight-or-flight, high adrenaline, duck and cover, get under your desks and prepare for the big one kind of cowering, put your dukes up stance since Tuesday, November 2016 and I realize even as I type this that many Americans have always been living in this defensive-protective posture, and now I understand that everyone, everyone feels like they are living this way because we are.
I awaken each morning with my shoulders hovering up around my ears and my teeth clenched. I dream about items I’ve lost and never found and people I didn’t quite connect with in a way that was satisfying and now I can’t just meet them for coffee. Some of these people live far away. Some of these people I have lost through the violence of time and distance. Some of these people would wrinkle their brows if I called them and said, “Hey, what’s up?”
It’s weird how in a crisis you love everyone and you think about all the people you didn’t hug when there was time. I think now of all the strangers I’ll never hug like I did that last night, that’s the way I think of it, My Last Good Time, or as I said to my friends when I begged them to go out with me, “It’s my last chance at True Happiness.” That last night I stayed out too late with friends doing Karaoke at a dive bar, sharing a microphone with strangers, and hugging a group of women who sang along to “Never Gonna Give You Up” and it turns out they were nurses and we hugged them all. And I talked to strangers and who knows when that will happen again.
It wasn’t My Last Good Time. Or at least, for the moment, I don’t think it was. Ask me in another 56 days.
How are you, Sylvia Torti?