It’s a strange thing, to notice what stands out in our memories as this disaster rolls on and on.
Personally I vacillate between attending to my clients and business, feeling stressed while reading the news, missing my boyfriend, and losing myself in the day to day details of living here in North Carolina (in an RV in my brother’s yard) while utterly surrounded by family for the foreseeable future.
It’s a strange thing. I think those small moments of daily life with my family will be what I remember most, despite the overarching reality of the global pandemic.
When I let my mind reflect on the last month of my life, this is what stands out: bits of human drama, both remarkable and unremarkable.
I think of my niece, standing in the middle of the living room, pale and shivering as her fever spiked back up high for the fifth day in a row. She’d lost her water bottle, and when I suggested we use a different one, she wailed with fever-grief that maybe “one of the other kids borrowed it and never brought it back.”
Her whole body shook as she crumpled into my shoulder to cry, her hallucinatory reality deeply felt in her bones. This unbearable loss; her favorite water bottle.
A few minutes later I tucked her into bed and we gazed at each other for a long time as I stroked her hair, her big glassy eyes unwavering on mine, both chubby arms clutching the replacement water bottle to her body as if it were a stuffed animal.
I think of the hostile and violent body language displayed by my brother’s horrible neighbor, who ripped out the bamboo trees my brother had planted (on his own property) in the middle of the night just to prove a point, and the helplessness you could feel in the house after the cops came to tell us nothing could be done.
The gutted feeling of grief over the lost $500 I donated to make those bamboo trees happen, a gift intended to make my brother’s house more beautiful and peaceful, and provide a barrier against that hateful man.
The look on my brother’s face as he sat there at the border between their properties, sadly saying to his neighbor “Joe, it doesn’t have to be like this” while Joe poured a dozen bottles of white vinegar into the soil to ruin any future tree-growth, pretending he couldn’t see or hear him.
The look of rage on my mom’s face, as these same neighbors rode their dirt bikes for hours and hours, not five feet from my brother’s house, waking up my sick niece and my sister in law, who had been sleeping after a night shift as a pediatric nurse.
I think of the moment I realized my boyfriend wouldn’t be coming, that our plans to travel together and meet each other’s families for the first time would be cancelled, and that there would be another whole month apart, at least. The feeling of being crushed, as though physically, in a vice.
“This is purgatory,” he said.
I’ll always remember the endless waiting, endless wanting, endless facetiming. The powerful need for sex, for closeness, for friendships and adventures. The unbearable urge to get out of the fucking house.
Some days I changed out of sweatpants into jeans, just to feel like a person, and regularly bounced back and forth between wishing I had more time and energy to engage with my niblings, and wishing they would just stop yelling.
I think of how I introduced my boyfriend to my family over virtual video games. Went on depressed hikes with my mom. Wrote in the sunshine. Bundled up in the garage gym with my brother. Traded turns making family dinners. Hunted for fossils with my nephew in the yard. Watched Tiger King. Ate junk food I haven’t eaten since I was a child.
The way my mom offered to make me a gin and tonic and bring cookies to my RV when I was so paralyzed with sadness I couldn’t bear to come back inside. How I snapped at her when she expressed irritation at making all the dinner for everyone many days in a row without help, instead of just offering to help.
The look on my nephew’s face when he said he wished I could play with him “like I used to,” back before I got so busy with work. The way he sleepily asked me “where did this virus come from, Aunt Jessi?” one night out of nowhere as I was rubbing his back before bed.
There is joy to be found in this reflection, these mounting memories, and also sadness and fear. I miss my boyfriend. I miss Los Angeles. I miss my friends. I miss my life.
It’s a strange thing, this time.
I talk to clients all over the world, each in their own home, quarantined with or without family. Some are fighting loneliness, horniness, boredom, depression. Some are desperate for space, or staying with a partner or family that are driving them completely up a wall. Some are still working, some just lost their jobs. Some are handling it well, some are falling apart.
It’s all so deeply, relentlessly human.
What will *you* remember from this time? What memories, what bits and pieces of life, will forever remind you of the 2020 quarantine? What stands out for you already as you reflect?
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