I think it’s finally started to hit me.
Like most people, I’ve been isolated lately, even more than was usual for my pseudo-hermit self. Medical appointments have either been over the phone or quick, five-minute drop-ins to pin-drop-silent, empty offices. I reported to my psychiatrist that interaction with strangers was becoming hard again, like it used to be, and I took her suggestion to get out among people (to a safe degree) a bit more, a bit at a time, baby steps, and it has helped. I still hyperventilate a bit on the way to the bank or post office, but that’s because it feels hard to breathe under the ever-present mask.
I wonder how weird it will be for everyone, not just me, when we’re finally allowed to drop them. They never covered the hardest part for me to look at, the eyes, but I think there will still be a kind of pain when the day comes that we all have faces again. Some people, I guess, thrive on that kind of connection, to be able to look at another human and feel a sense of ah-you-are-like-me. Not for me. I feel in many ways closer to the squirrels outside my building than any inhabitant of it.
If you are a long-time reader of this strange public diary, you might recall my obsession with death, specifically my own, and how it really can’t get here fast enough. Do I still feel that way? Most of me does. I’m just getting over some mysterious allergic reaction that made several parts of my body red and irritated, and the frequent vomiting I might have mentioned (or not) is becoming even more common. Some days I can’t even keep a Carnation Instant Breakfast drink down. Might I be dying at last? There have been so many times I thought so, and been disappointed.
When I say it finally hit me, I meant the pandemic. A couple days ago, my sister and I went to a city a few hours away for our first COVID vaccinations. (She’s an essential worker, I’m immune-compromised.) It was very formal and well-organized, big rooms full of lines, National Guard in uniforms confirming our identities, waving us on to the next line, to the tables where I got the painless little jab (sister was not so lucky, her arm STILL hurts, while I’ve been fine), to the area where we had to wait 15 or 20 minutes to make sure no one had a bad reaction.
It was sitting, shifting restlessly among those spaced-out chairs that it started to hit me, that this whole COVID situation is not just another weird thing I’m shuffling past on the road of this life. At one point, I whispered to my sister something like, “This sort of thing isn’t supposed to happen here.” If my country at large had any of that same disbelieving feeling, if there was any of that naïve innocence left after 9/11, I think it’s been or being swept away.
We stayed over in Atlantic City, because my sister gets comp rooms sometimes at the Hard Rock, and while she and my mom gambled a bit, I enjoyed the silence of the hotel room, the window that I could see the ocean from, and weirdly, that’s where it kept on hitting me. I’d never normally go to a place like AC, as I never, ever gamble (liked it a bit too much in a previous life, not taking any chances in this one). But there I was, and instead of shrugging off the newness with a smile and murmuring, “The world’s just getting weirder,” I felt so sad.
Maybe it’s all because it finally hit close to home. For a long while, I didn’t even know anyone who tested positive for COVID. Now, the father of one of my nephews is in the hospital for it, as well as bleeding ulcers. I’m friendly with Dan, consider him family and one of the reasons I have my precious nephew, but still, I tend to only see him every couple years, around holidays. Even so, I got the okay from the hospital to send him a gift, and ordered him a huge snack box to make up for bland hospital food. Such a gesture is not unlike me at all. But I doubt anyone guesses all my confusing feelings behind it now.
Maybe I’ve just always been so comfortable with the idea of my own death, there wasn’t room in me to think of other people’s. My heart is not too hard anymore to shrug off the so-many lives that have been lost, the ones that are yet to slip away, the thought that someone close to me could disappear off to the place I’ve been trying to claw my way back to. My youngest sister (the one who got my appointment for me) is rather OCD and worry-prone, and all through COVID she’s been in a panic about prevention, and now she’s very busy trying to get us all vaxxed.
Usually, I scoff at her ramblings about how everything including oxygen can cause cancer, but odd as it is, she’s been right about a lot lately. For example, she’s very gung-ho about getting my parents vaccinated, and I feel the same, because before my eyes, they have grown old. Another reason to seek out my death and reel it in close to me like a fish on a string; I don’t want to outlive my parents. I don’t want to end up a burden dropped on one of my sisters. I want those who want to survive to get their wish, but I want mine, too. I just…
I did not know death was so strange.