I don’t know why I’m just getting stir crazy. All of my friends have already had a breakdown. Maybe because I’m an introvert. Maybe because I have more hobbies than the average bear. Maybe because my mental health meds are a nice cushion for life. About a week ago I woke up anxious. I wanted to do something, anything. I missed the family I created. I mean, we’ve all been real cautious. Which means there haven’t been any get-togethers or anything since this global pandemic was acknowledged.
I’m an artist, writer and performer. I’m not to into the performing, but I love seeing other poets perform. I love late night meals and conspiracy theories. I like history lessons at 3am in the morning. I like discussing solutions to oppression and racism. I like laughing until I’m exhausted. I like getting to know my people in and hearing their stories unedited for a trusted audience… So next time they perform a piece, a few of us will hear it on a deeper level. A few of us won’t internalize their words and search for ourselves… We’ll see each other deeper.
So, I called Keith, a man we call The Griot in poetry circles. He created this poetry space that has existed I think 3 decades. During the pandemic they even tried to make it virtual so people could still get their fix. Still, it was hard. We were afraid. Wearing masks. We were grateful to see each other, but we were also afraid.
Since we talk about everything, we couldn’t help but talk about who we knew that died of Covid. Yes, we discussed the conspiracy that too many deaths were attributed to Covid. Still, I don’t know how much we believed this. As we each gauged how to interact with each other. Some of us were so terrified we stayed to ourselves. Others, as always, were hugging and eating at different tables…
After that we didn’t get together any more. We didn’t talk about getting together. We, artists, aren’t big phone or even social media people. We all buried ourselves in each of our individual tribes. We focused on our loved ones who shared our household. We didn’t text. We didn’t do check ins. Someone would send a group text of a project and we would exchange supportive comments.
Then it happened. The cure was finally here. I hate needles. I remember Tuskegee, COINTELPRO and J. Marion Sims. I wanted to see how this cure would be received. Also, since I don’t like needles, I was going for the Johnson and Johnson version so I didn’t have to take two shots.
Weeks rolled by, precautions were removed and many of my loved ones returned to life as they knew it. They were vaccinated. They were travelling and celebrating the end of this… But then, the numbers of infected people started climbing again. We learned the vaccine was a cure like other vaccines that eradicated diseases. Vaccinated people, living their life like we weren’t in the middle of a global pandemic started getting sick too.
My city, whose economy centers tourism opened up to the world and said we didn’t have to wear masks if we were vaccinated. Now we’re a hot spot for Covid and a hot spot for vacation.
I still live like we did in the first months of Covid. I don’t hang out or go over people’s house. I wear a mask with everyone and everywhere. I stay to myself. I cringe when people coughed and weren’t wearing a mask. Sometime I gave them the look of death… IDGAF if you are vaccinated covered your nasty mouth. Haven’t you heard people can be carriers without symptoms? Haven’t you heard people are dying?
So I like I said, I called Keith, The Griot. I just wanted to sit with someone I loved. I was willing to wear a mask. I realized that at work I was seeing strangers every day in a mask and I hadn’t caught Covid. So I wondered why I couldn’t hang out with a friend. But now writing this, my friends are probably not doing Covid cleaning like my job. They aren’t wiping door nobs or sanitizing everything after they touch.
Doesn’t really matter, Keith wasn’t up for hanging out. In fact, he was in quarantine when I reached out. He noted, he’d been vaccinated but had still caught Covid. More importantly, he was still very ill and was still recovering. On top of that, his wife had tested negative but she was in quarantine as a precaution. He was so ill he couldn’t even text.
After he informed me he was waiting until this was all over, because things were not working out how he anticipated it kind of broke my spirit. I followed all the rules. I have hand sanitizer everywhere. I’ve started to think more about how I interact with the world. A friend posted that she washes all her grocery before putting them away. After I carry all my groceries up the stairs to my place, I celebrate actually putting them away before the ice cream melts. Now I’m expected to wash everything before I put it in a cabinet or in the fridge? I’m going to DIEEEE!!!!!
I started thinking about how I worked in grocery with gloves on and touched all sorts of things while putting up canned and jarred foods. I think about how sometimes weird things spilled in the cooler and probably poisoned the packaging on things… Then it felt like the world was closing in on me. Every where I went all I could see were germs. I’m a pretty upbeat person, so this negative perspective that we’re all capable of killing each other wore my spirit down.
I’m up at all times of the night. Tired of watching entire series… I didn’t actually start watching TV until like 2018. So streaming all these different shows made me feel lazy and like I was letting my life slip away. Isn’t there something I should be doing? I’d get up and pace all over thinking of things to do and then being to tired to do them. And then being angry at myself for not using all this time at home to get my life together. So I have to berate myself. It’s only right. Then I have to remember I am my own best friend and then I have to be nice and understanding.
So I treat my lazy ass to some ice cream, even though I’m lactose intolerant, I’ve gained back some of the weight I’ve lost… But then I soothe myself with promises of joining and going to the gym regularly once this pandemic is over. I avoid all mirrors. I wonder how something so delicious is not good for me. Then I make a mental not to buy pills to take before I eat dairy… I actually buy those pills but never take them because I don’t like taking pills. Then I find a lactose free ice cream. I haven’t tried it yet.
All this ice cream I’m eating reminds me of my editor, Claudia, who loves ice cream. She’s naturally slim and has to work out to gain weight. She use to eat a bowl of ice cream every night before bed. She’d call me to talk about whatever project we were working on and I’d hear enjoying that ice cream, and it’d piss me off. The word ice cream puts weight on me. Not to mention, no one enjoys anything like an artist. I mean we really love things and express it in “oohs” and “ahhs.” Don’t be in person, we’re a whole commercial for whatever we are in love with at the moment.
Anyway, I called Claudia, to see how she was doing. One of the things this pandemic has got me in the habit of doing is calling all my love ones who are not in the same city. I try to have a couple long conversations a week. Well I did initially. The problem is when I call, they are bummed about the pandemic too. In the beginning, I would cheer the extroverts I love up. I’d be telling jokes and giving all that bullshit new age advice… Now, I’m up on a ledge imagining I’m a ballerina. Up on my toes. Arms out. I’m looking over the edge and wondering if the shock of dropping will kill me before I have to feel the impact.
So now when my friends call as I’ve gotten them use to… I’m avoiding contact because I’m too sad to lift anyone’s spirit. I have a dark humor for folks I’m forced to see for survival… That’s work and the grocery store. OMG!!!! Walmart is using this pandemic to make us all volunteer cashiers when they aren’t punishing us for using cash. GAWD!!!! Cash is the devil now, but I’m broke. So I take out my allowance. Once it’s gone it’s gone.
Now when I was a kid allowance meant fun things, like movies and pizza with friends. Now, allowance is what I buy my basic necessities with. Yes, I’m poor. So I’m buying grocery with my allowance. I’m buying gas to drive to the job that makes sure they don’t give me enough hours to qualify for benefits. Yes, I’m looking for a job, but not aggressively. I mean, I’ve got all this stuff around my house to do that I’m not doing. I don’t have time to harass employers. What? Between my sleeping, moping and eating ice cream when should I look for work, huh?
So anyway, I wrote all this hoping you could relate. I wrote all this because my heart is heavy and I needed to release. I wrote all this because I’m too anxious and sad to cry.
Oh, let me not forget this… So Walmart has 15 checkout lanes, but only two or three cashiers. But here is the worst part, they have tons of self check outs but you can only use them if you are paying with a card. So I’m standing in line with my two or three items, behind eight families doing their grocery shopping for the month. Oh and another thing. One Walmart I went to a month ago outside of my area, didn’t have a single cashier. They only had self check out. There were disabled people and elderly people struggling to check their own selves out. I mean the staff was so light I asked what time they were closing. Now as a person who works retail, it’s crazy to get off work and then go work somewhere else…
See how I’m complaining… This is why I don’t talk to people. I wanted to use the self check out but I could’t because I had cash. Then I found a Walmart that only has self check out and it pissed me off. I should mention, I was doing my shopping for two weeks. So I had a lot of grocery and I had just got off work, then checked on a sick friend. All I wanted to do was have an actual cashier ring me up and bag all the stuff I purchased. On the positive side. Less hands to worry about infecting me with Covid because I don’t wash my groceries off.
Anyway, thank you for staying to the end of this long rant. My heart is still heavy but it’s a lot lighter than it was when I started this post.
I hope your family is well. I hope you are cooking really great food since you’re home anyway. I’ve been making some really good unhealthy shit. So yes, I prolly won’t get Covid, but diabetes and high blood pressure are seducing me with ice cream, microwave popcorn and dipping lobster in hot butter. I’m hungry… So I’m going to go.
Love is life. Live