Life is on hiatus.
Going to work, dating, running to the mall, meeting friends for drinks, and living at all are all indefinitely postponed until an unspecified date.
An old friend who suddenly popped back into my life texted, “when this is all over, let’s grab a drink.”
“These are crazy times” is the new signal that a phone conversation is winding down.
A different friend responded to a group chat at 3:30 am.
No one is sleeping, at least not soundly, and no one is really talking about their problems.
At least not on a personal level.
Sure, we’ll all discuss state and global issues, and every news item passing through our constantly updating feeds. Few conversations involve what the world will look like when we all come out on the other side.
We’re all running from something we can’t see into a future we really won’t recognize.
I’m drafting the ideas for this piece using a scented pen borrowed from my daughter’s art supplies. The fragrance is coconut.
I’m pressing heavily against the lined paper, the ink blotting and forming puddles, hovering over the i’s and drowning each p.
Writing so hard for entire school days frequently left my hand cramped and fatigued. There’s a permanent bump on the ring finger of my right hand from pens and pencils pushing against flesh.
I stop writing sometimes because my hand hurts and not due to a shortage of ideas.
The coconut puddles make my mind wander to the beach and reapplying lotion and sunblock. I shake out of the daydream in a panic, thinking about sitting that close to coughing strangers.
Yesterday, I went to the supermarket. I counted the cars in the parking lot. It felt like too many, but we’re running low on food.
I wipe down the cart handle with complimentary wipes, commandeer the cart as far from other shoppers as possible, grab only the items on my list, and want to escape.
Two women – both over retirement age – block the ground beef. One is an employee, and the other a cloaked customer in a dark babushka, whispering about a possible meat delivery early the next morning.
They talk intimately, and I can see the spit diving from one mouth into the other. It’s causing my hands to sweat all over the still sticky from sanitizer cart handle.
I grab any burgers and bolt.
The cashier explains the two-item limit on meat products, so I’m going to have to hand over one of the chickens.
I’m making Sophie’s Choice with the poultry and feel like a contestant on the world’s most boring game show.
“You can take the ground chicken,” I tell the host. My prize is the rest of my groceries.
I exit, leave the cart full of winnings outside, go back in the store entrance, and grab a few more wipes. I rub down my hands, and the chapped parts sting like hell.
The fresh air relives some of the stress.
Goodbye, ground chicken.
When this is all over, let’s grab a drink.
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