I haven't eaten anything that hasn't come out of a grocery store in the neighborhood since March 13. Late that day, I stopped at Whole Foods on my way home, and bought the only two things left in the produce department: a big container of cut up assorted fresh fruit, And a bag of small limes.
Everyone knew what was coming.
Although, except for the produce department, the store had a pretty good assortment of everything else. And I stocked up for the weekend. And waited in a long line to check out. And then I walked home, down Roosevelt Road with my daughter.
And that was the end of life as I knew it. Although I didn't know it yet.
From then on, we shopped at Trader Joe's and Jewel when we had to, but I dreaded the ordeal of being with so many other people in those stores who could breathe on me and kill me. Until we started wearing masks. And my own breathing in of my own carbon dioxide now makes me feel like I'm killing myself.
On the bright side, the floors and counters and shelves (and at Walgreen's, too, which I go to on Senior Citizen Day) are so clean you could eat off them. (I'm hoping when the virus finally dissipates and disappears that such cleanliness continues.)
I get wobbly with anxiety. How many times can you say, "This is unbelievable, what's happening here, I've never seen anything like it," and yet it keeps happening, with different tones and tenors, from the mayor and the governor and the president and the doctors and all the experts on all the news shows. And no one could have imagined this--althought, I keep getting excerpts from movies that people send me on Facebook from years ago that could have happened yesterday at the latest news conference. So someone knew something. Someone knew this could happen. In Hollywood, at least.
Come to think of it, I should have imagined it myself. I have a Master's degree in Public Health, for God's sake. But when I got that degree in 1972, communicable disease had gone out of fashion. The lifestyle-caused diseases were what was happening and our course of study concentrated on those; communicable disease was studied as history. Like psychology students today study Freud.
I haven't used my dishwasher this much since long lost periods in my life requited it: like when I was a young mother and when I was into entertaining. My house hasn't been without a cleaning person for decades. But it is now for the last two months-plus.
When I suddenly ran out of dishwasher detergent (not toilet paper, though) and couldn't use that appliance for two days until I gathered the energy to go to the store, I invested in something new: the only thing Jewel had for the moment to put in the dishwasher, two boxes of pods were left on an empty shelf, and I invested in one of them. And, boy do they get the dishes clean! I love them, and I feel very modern. Is it too frivolous to say that this was something nice to come out of a pandemic?
Speaking of which, I have a new pandemic hazmat ritual regarding ATM machines. To protect my hands from the door handle and the machines themselves. And my own contaminated card when it comes out of the slot. I like the one at Michigan and Van Buren because pressing the screen there can be done with a glove.
Every day, or course, I feel certain that I have the symptoms. Mostly when I study the Illinois case count and the death toll, which I do all the time, the same way I study election polls of all kinds and from all places. It's my favorite hobby.
I am in wonder as to who these people are, thousands of them a day, who have it. And what got them to have a test? And where are they from? Do I know any of them? Do they go to my grocery stores and ATMs? And what does it feel like to be hospitalized at McCormick Place? Is anyone actually hospitalized at McCormick Place? Do the ones who die know they are going to?
Adam Schlesinger, 52, wasn't so lucky. So I dwell on him, and convince myself that he must have had underlying conditions. Why else would he have fared so poorly?
I hear second and third hand about people's grandmothers (like Michael Che's), aunts and uncles and spouses who have it, who had it. And I keep worrying and fix my mask. With uncontaminated hands, I hope.
I've gotten used to all of this.
I love seeing everyone in their own home doing the news and the talk shows; I love that most of them have scraggly hair and pale makeup-free faces like I do. Their previous vanity vanished like the rest of our old lives. I love seeing that most of the stars and the news people and the politicians have fairly modest homes as they sit in front of their bookcases, their framed prints, their family photos and their lovely flower-filled vases. And I love seeing their kitchens.
The most garish thing I've seen was Nancy Pelosi's garish spread of ice cream. However, wanting to see what all the fuss was about, I went out and spent $68 on five pints, which I ate pretty fast. (And it was good.)
I have loved being entertained by music and dance performances and all on my computer. Many of which I have learned about from my step-daughter, who seems to know about all those things. And plays and movies and tributes and fundraisers streaming, too. I have to make my own libations and victuals but I'm stocked so I don't mind. And I love my great array of Hulu, Netflix, ESPN, all the Cable channels, Prime and stacks and stacks of DVDs and books. I lack for nothing.
And Zoom. Will anyone ever forget zoom and how it made life so livable in a new and different way? We never heard of it. Now it's our best friend. Because that's where our best friends are: at our board meeting, our book clubs, our film groups, our lectures, our art shows and our dance companies, the dancers dancing around in their own homes.
And I love seeing the pale faces, scraggly hair and modest homes of strangers at these meetings, too. I find myself watching interesting fixtures in the backgrounds, interesting angles in which their faces present from their screens, some people looking so professional, the way their heads fit in the screens like talking heads. While others look like their heads are swirling like Linda Blair's in The Exorcist.
Then there are the aimless walks I take every day. Pushing myself to get 10,000 steps in to maintain my fitness, such as it is. (Along with yoga tapes, etc.) But I never do. And I worry if that fact itself makes me more vulnerable to Covid-19? Circling the neighborhood with nowhere to go.
But they are walks in which I reminisce about the last 26 years in the neighborhood, since building my house there on top of an old railroad yard (before that, in the 1800s, it was a neighborhood like the one I live in now). I walk past my past. My friendships, the people I knew, and still know and all that happened in a quarter-century. Of which there was a lot: deaths, suicides, break-ups, move-ins, move-outs, groups that formed for gardening, book reading, maintaining the parks, improving the schools and so on and so on.
And then I pepper it all with the tapes in my head of Drs. Fauci and Birx and the politicians and the dissenters who think it's a hoax, that punctuate that life of memories that I am passing, while I play a tape of the aforementioned inconsistencies, dueling studies, and the latest theories about the drugs, and the debut of the vaccine. And whether the Chinese did this to the world on purpose?
Not to mention, will the coronavirus disappear quickly, within months, like the first SARS virus did?
We're all in this together! I hear it all day long from all directions. Yes, the entire globe of people, we are all in this together.
And when it dissipates, we'll be free again to go places and run ourselves ragged, and get in our 10,000 steps, and I can visit my 93-year-old mother who is safe at home as we speak, and I won't have to contemplate all that we contemplate now.
And we will be different when we get back to what we were before. We will marvel at our very essence. At the scourge of an invisible speck. And a new dishwasher pod, too.
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