April 1, 2020

Quarantine life is not that different from ordinary life, except that it is entirely different. I have always stayed home more often than not, but it takes on another flavor when I have little choice. Every week, the grocery store (like most of us, my only outing) seems more replenished, and yet, every week, something cuts through the assurance. This week, it was blue Xs on the floor at the checkout stands, topped with bold white letters screeching, “Please stand here.” This week, it was periodic announcements over the loud speaker, telling us to wash our hands and cover our coughs and generally keep away from other humans. When I walked down the still-empty aisle where the grains and legumes should’ve been, there was a young guy standing in the middle of it, staring at the barren shelves in exasperation or disbelief or both. “Sad times in this aisle, huh?” I said to him. He turned to me, and with that same stricken expression, he said, “I just want f*cking rice.” I think that is the emblem of our collective feelings at this point. We just want f*cking rice. We just want our crazy world to go back to garden variety crazy. It is a curious thing, to be entrenched in collective trauma. I am more accustomed to being entrenched in my own trauma—to feel the world within me crack and slide away, while the world without continues on. But now, it’s as if that world has been yanked inside out. I log into Facebook, to my bank account, to YouTube, to anything, and I’m ricocheted back and forth between attempts at reassurance and a kind of wild panic I have only seen in animals trying to outrun a forest fire. Over the weekend, my neighbors had a load of dirt delivered, which has since been residing on the side of the road, covered in a sad white tarp that is no doubt designed to protect it from the rain, but which strikes me as far too similar to the white sheets laid over dead bodies. I have since been fighting the urge to leave my house and stride across the street with a homemade headstone, emblazoned with the epitaph, “Here lies the earth, in a heap on the floor. We no longer know what to make of ourselves. Perhaps, if we stay very still, this downpour will not wash us all away.”

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