You wake up and you think, lord t’underin’ jeebus, how will I ever get through this day? At least Phil Connors got to get out of the house. But in this movie, there are consequences. So inside you stay.
You make your way through the day’s tasks. You either watch the news or you don’t. You watch a little more of Alexis’ character arc and wonder if you could find a university to pay you to do a PhD on her. Boop.
You decide to limit the time you check the worldometers site that’s been bookmarked on your phone and laptop for weeks now, before you ever imagined it would be spitting out the number it is.
You check it anyway. You wait for the peak.
You see the trends and you don’t understand why people are still partying on beaches for Spring Break.
You think they’re idiots, but you think you were 20 once too, and you wonder what you would have done. Would you still have gone to that bathhouse 35 years ago?
You realize it’s not really your problem and you worry for their parents. All those years of saying “make good choices.”
You worry about your own parents and you know one side is fine and the other, well notsumuch. You rationalize, for the umpteenth occasion, that the move to the nursing home was the best choice at the time and probably still is.
You see a mother walking down the street wearing a mask. Her barefaced kid’s alongside her, pushing himself on a scooter. You wonder which essential service they’re going to, and think maybe the government should allow parents to walk their children, the same way they allow you to walk your dog.
You hear an ambulance in the distance, wailing above the dopplering of diminished traffic on the street below your window.
You think about a daughter standing outside the window of her mother’s nursing home, in the cold, tapping on the glass to get her attention; making sure her mom knows she’s still around even though she can’t come in. Doing all that despite the fact that she might not be completely recognized. She wonders who her mom will see through her pane: her daughter? her long-gone younger sister? a healthcare worker who found herself outdoors? a stranger?
You think about the aunts and uncles who you never got to say goodbye to.
You try not to think about yesterday’s 4:30 am anxiety attack, when you worst-case-scenarioed yourself into envisioning which of the two of you would go first to the hospital, and, if that happened, would it be the last time you saw each other?
You try VERY FUCKING HARD not to think of the “lucid, drowning deaths” an Italian doctor wrote about —fully aware that you’d be drowning in your own body fluids, in isolation.
You promise yourself not to think about all the doctors who, having been forced to change their names to Sophie, are making unthinkable decisions.
You wish there was a password-protected block that someone could put on this channel of your mind’s cable subscription.
You look out the window and see an older woman carrying a seemingly empty re-usable grocery store bag. It looks like Sainsbury’s but that would be very long walk indeed. You wonder if she’s actually shopping, or if’s it’s just a prop so she can tell the police she’s on her way to market. You see scores of pigeons following her, and you wonder what the collective noun for pigeons is. You find yourself disappointed that there isn’t just one term, and while “dropping” and “kit” could be the best of them, they still leave you unfulfilled.
They keep after her, some scurrying on their filthy little feet, others flapping around in half flight. She shoos them away, but they are undaunted (some of them chasing the breadcrumbs they think she’s tossed — like a dog who falls for the invisible ball trick). They are relentless. Like paparazzi.
You scan the rooftops for people lucky enough to have access and bold enough to break the rules. They perch on the edges of their buildings like sentinels. Perhaps there is an underground Catalan Whatsapp group that you don’t know about, one where we are directed to recreate Antony Gormley’s “Event Horizon”.
You remember rambling the streets of London in 2007, searching for their silhouettes.
You see a cat bouncing around a terrace across the way, looking at all the birds and bugs it could hunt if it were free. Alert. Aware. Agile.
You look at your own cat on the sofa beside you, working on his own installation: “50 Shades of Catnaps”, or “I don’t know why you humans give so many fucks. Don’t you have food? Don’t you have places to rest all around this flat? Can’t you find a square of sunshine? Don’t you have shadows to chase?”
You hear the apartment door open and your partner has come home from the not-Sainsbury’s, a granny trolley full of fresh fruit and veg, snacks, ingredients for new recipes he’s found on the internets, and a chicken so you can make (yet) another batch of soup.
He takes off the plastic gloves they gifted him on entry (before the mandatory store-supplied sanitizer) and says there was a queue to get in, but it seemed longer than it was because everyone was keeping a meter of space between them. They aisles were not especially full, and the shelves better stocked than the last visit. People kept their distance and everything was done with a measured, controlled, efficiency.
You tell them that sounds very civilized and he says it was more about being surreal and scary.
You think that you never teach sibilance in your ESL classes.
You realize you have an unending list of things to be grateful for, not the least of which is someone who puts up with your neuroses and a vegetarian who picks up poultry for you.
You decide to get on with your day, which is already almost half over. Like so many other days in this social experiment you’ve been dropped into, no matter how insurmountable the day seems at first glance, before you know it, you’re wondering “where did all those hours go?”
You hope it will continue to be one of the better days, maybe even as good as a couple days ago. You hope it won’t be anything like 4:30 am yesterday.
You look at the bulletin board next to your desk, and see a quote from Anne Tyler …
“I read so I can live more than one life in more than one place.”
You know that after you start that pot of soup in a few minutes, you’ll find yourself in Sandhill, North Carolina, walking alongside Ben Joe Hawkes and and watching him figure out his own unexpected world; maybe even reading something upside down.