By Alex Finley
You ever stop and look around and just say, wow, this is really fucked up?
That’s how I spend about ninety percent of my time now, when I’m not washing my hands or disinfecting light switches. It’s weird, isn’t it? How quickly dystopia befell us? And it’s really fucked up, right?
Remember six weeks ago, when we used to be able to make plans? Remember how fucking glorious that was? Hey, you got summer plans? You planning to go to the gym later? What are your weekend plans? Let’s plan to see each other! Remember that? Remember when the future existed?
Ah, having a future to plan. What a luxury that was.
The only thing my family and I plan now is meals. Our lunch conversation is about what we will make for dinner. That’s it. We can’t get any further into the future than that.
We have no idea what the future will be like, or when it will begin. When will we be able to travel farther than the grocery store? When will we see our friends in person, rather than waving from a screen? More than the physical confinement, we struggle with this mental confinement. This constant holding pattern. Who can focus? Who can start new projects? Who can finish old ones? Will they matter anymore? Will projects from a few weeks ago be relevant or relatable in a post-coronavirus world?
And what till that future look like? Will we ever touch each other again? See each others’ smiles? Or is our future a staggered line of people in masks standing six feet apart?
I’ve had friends send me selfies in their new masks. I’ve seen pictures proudly posted on Instagram and Pinterest to show off pink paisley homemade masks, finely stitched, pandemic oeuvres.
People, making our own masks in order not to die is not cute. It’s not normal. It’s really fucked up.
My husband found masks in a shop recently and returned home triumphant. “I found masks!” he yelled from the front hallway that is now our airlock, where we peel off any potentially contaminated clothing and drop shopping bags to be hosed down with disinfectant. I opened the packet. They were sew-it-yourself masks. My mother sewed her own wedding dress. This is not a talent she passed down to me. But, I mean, I had time, right?
So, I sewed my own mask.
Remember the movie The Nightmare Before Christmas, whose main character has a baseball head with a mouth that looks like it was sewn by a three-year-old? That’s my mask. Rudimentary stitches in various thread colors that would make Frankenstein tell me not to quit my day job. It sags funny around my cheeks, kind of like I shoved an airplane vomit bag over my nose, mouth, and chin and secured it with some rubber bands around my ears. It looks like a horse’s feed bag. I could carry snacks in there.
But again, how fucked up is it that I have to wear hazmat gear to go to the grocery store in the first place?
I live in a city, so our groceries are small, and even though they limit how many people can be inside at once, it’s a fucking mess in there, all of us performing a Covid-19 ballet. Imagine a Swan Lake pas de deux, if the swans feared avian flu. Someone steps toward me, and I leap back, pinning myself against the shelf before spinning around to turn my head away from him. I duck under an arm and sidestep an employee stocking wine (thank god!) before pulling back into an aisle, where an old woman twirls and moves away, leading a young man to waltz around her through a narrow aisle, where he meets a young woman who dances backwards as he approaches. We need six-feet-wide tutus to mark our space. We’re probably all smiling apologetically as we hop past one another, but who can tell given that we’re all wearing our stupid fucking masks.
But we’re all in this together, right?
You know those uplifting videos that were circulating when this dystopia started? How we were all keeping each others’ spirits up by singing opera from the window or playing piano from our balconies? So inspiring, being together alone.
None of those people are my neighbors. Not a single one of my neighbors has talent.
One guy sat on his balcony and clipped his nails. That’s what we’ve got.
I’m not judging. I’ve been completely useless. I haven’t learned calculus or written a best-selling novel or 3-D printed a ventilator I invented. My family doesn’t want to sit together, let alone sing a funny rendition of Les Miserables together. We have the time for everything, but the patience for nothing. My sixteen-year-old son has not left the house in more than a month. The kid should be hanging out being stupid with his friends and figuring out who he is, not listening to his mother say ridiculous things like, “Hey, guess who I just ran into in the kitchen? Your dad!” We’re hilarious, but I understand when he says he never wants to see his parents again once this lockdown ends.
When it ends. Sometime. In a future we can’t yet conceive.
Pretty fucked up, right?