May 8, 2020
I woke up this morning so scared.
Nothing has changed, at least not since yesterday, or the day before, or the day before that. Nothing has changed all that much since the middle of March, when the boys came home from college and Africa, and our daughter’s high school sent the kids home, and Los Angeles went into lockdown. Yes, we’ve had developments and events — a possible coronavirus sweep through our household, a birthday, an anniversary, a vet scare that will go down in family lore. But for nearly two months, our lives and those of many of our friends and family have run on the same, monotonous treadmill We don’t see new people. We don’t go new places. We don’t experience new things, at least, not outside the confines of our house and grocery stores and, for my husband, the clinic and the hospital.
Some mornings, like today, I wake up and that thought is terrifying. I can’t imagine doing this for two more months. I miss all of you so much. I miss the people I know, the bodies I can’t embrace, the smiles I can’t see in person. Even if we connect on Zoom, I miss something as primal as seeing your speech match the movement of your lips.
But I also miss those of you I don’t know, whom I might meet at a friend’s house, or wave to in the Trader Joe’s parking lot (“You go first,” “No, you”).
I miss — a lot — going into See’s Candies on Sepulveda at National, paying for one chocolate and getting two because everyone who walks in the door is offered a sample (and did you know, if you don’t want the sample they offer, you can ask for a different one?). Also, I miss the ladies who work there, forced to wear anachronistic white dresses with black trim that float me back to my childhood at these same stores in the Valley. Those ladies know all about my two-for-one tricks, but they never so much as lift an eyebrow, only ask me if I’d like a coupon for next month’s promotion with today’s purchase.
The store’s been closed since mid-March. I wonder, do they miss the ridiculous uniforms? The light scent of milk chocolate? Me?
I’m also scared to stop the quarantining. I’ve only done two big marketing trips since mid-March. A couple days after the first one, I got sick. Three days after the second one, I had a relapse. Probably, it was coincidence. But the fear grounds me in my house. I try to imagine doing something as ordinary as submitting to an afternoon at Third Street Promenade with my daughter. I used to think there were few things I enjoyed less than spending our hard-earned money and my precious time at Brandy Melville, Urban Outfitters, PacSun and the like. But now I know there is — being unable to even imagine going there again in the future.
That’s not all that scares me, though.
The boys are talking summer plans and I can’t stop remembering how radically different today’s plans are from those of February. Okay, I bargain with the universe, I dealt with a revised spring. I can handle an upside-down summer. But can you please give them back their fall?
I see that it takes every bit of pluck my daughter can summon to stick to an academic schedule and prepare for A.P. exams, in this nether-zone of quarantine. I fear what it will require of her, and what it will take from her, if she must continue this way when 11th grade starts in August.
I’m scared that we can’t remain a stable society when a quarter of us are out of work.
I fear the salary cut that may be coming for my husband, because people are losing not just their jobs but their health insurance; at his clinic and at the hospital, aside from the COVID-19 patients, the rooms and hallways are emptier than usual.
And the fear that underlies it all: I lack faith in the President and his administration to do what is best for the nation. Even writing this makes me sad. I can hardly believe it’s true. But the image, coming into clearer focus every day, of a ship without a captain, banging recklessly about at sea, leaves me almost breathless with an existential terror.
Maybe that’s the problem. I’m trying to gaze through a telescope, when what I need to do is peer down a microscope: this house, these kids, that husband, our dog, these friends, and family, and neighbors. Only what’s right here, right now, no more and no less.
The trick to finding calm and sanity, the one that eluded me today, is to stay present. So present that literally, there’s hardly any future to behold.
Because the future — yikes.