Nothing new was created or destroyed.
The Attirement of the Bride (1940) by Max Ernst.
You don’t matter anymore. I don’t matter, either.
You’re not as close as you appear. You’re smaller than you look. There’s less to see here. There’s less to search for. What will I make of this, once it runs out, once there are no more footprints to track through the snow? What will I have to wait for?
Locked in, we’re forced to look at what we have. Who remembers how to love in close quarters? Look at this square of land and these animals, these humans and this sunny garden. Who remembers how to talk over dinner? He says, “We have more than most.” She says, “We are lucky.” I say, “Things are about to get much worse.” Her face falls, but I meant it as a prayer, as a blessing, as nod toward the inevitable, as a comfort.
I don’t mention that I’ll have to eat poison because the hospital won’t have me. “They’re running out of masks,” the surgeon told me when she called. We were at the allergist’s office. I asked how long I’d have to wait. I motioned to my daughter to stop touching her face, to stop touching anything. “Maybe a month, maybe longer,” said the surgeon. My daughter sneezed. A red blotch appeared on her forehead. “Your time is up,” said the nurse, then looked at my daughter. She was trying not to cry. “Wait a little longer.” Wait. They don’t love you like I love you.
On the way home, a sign flashed at the side of the freeway: “SOCIAL DISTANCING WORKS! LET’S BEAT COVID-19!”
Everything is still a game, even as the world falters. People will die because they weren’t warned, because our leaders were trying to beat the stock market. Don’t be negative, don’t be nasty, we’ll win in the end, as long as we don’t die first. Let them blame the Chinese, let’s not quibble, it’s just a distraction, it just doesn’t matter.
Language always matters. Wait a little longer.
My mother doesn’t matter and she doesn’t mind. Today she’s watching movies with her brother, formerly homeless, formerly living in a van by the golf course, a social distancing icon. When I picked him up he was walking down the sidewalk, carrying a plastic bag full of his things. He’d grown a mustache to hide his missing teeth. He said his plan was to walk straight into the ocean. He had called my mom on the way to the beach.
I drove him home. I showed him this plot of land and these animals, these humans and this sunny garden. “You have more than most,” he said. Then he fell asleep in front of “The Good Place” with a chicken pot pie in his lap. My husband smiled at me like we had just adopted the most adorable rescue human of all.
When my uncle woke up, he said, “TV is strange these days.”
The next morning, we drank our tea and coffee in the sunshine upstairs. “I don’t know why I never got married,” my uncle told me. “I don’t know why I didn’t have any kids. What was I waiting for? It’s dumb when I think about it.”
His looked out across the backyard, took in the sky, the mountains. “You are so lucky.”
Some people need saving. You never did, though, did you? It’s dumb when I think about it. I’ll stop touching everything.
I’m bigger than I look. There’s so much more to see here. Language always matters. There’s so much more to search for.
Things are about to get much worse. I mean that as a comfort. Darkness is coming for us all. I mean that as a prayer. Walk straight into the ocean. They don’t love you like I love you. I won’t pick you up. I mean that as a blessing.