It’s a lovely May day. The sun is shining brightly and the temperature is absolutely perfect. The mountains surrounding the village are covered in a haze of green and red, leaves eager to burst forth. No humidity, a light breeze. People are hanging out on porches, chatting to their neighbors. The ice cream stand is open and there’s a line. A steady stream of motorcycles roars down the main street, glad to be free of the house and out on the road. Couples and families stroll around, some walking dogs. Even the flowers seem to have something to cheer about, as they unfold a rainbow of petals to catch the light.
Underlying all this is a dreaded nasty killer that everyone seems to ignore. It lurks and hides, striking either at random or at large. No one can stop it, although it isn’t from lack of trying. Yet on a day like today, it’s easier to ignore such a threat, when all seems to be returning to life and promise.
Yet the road ahead is unclear, its path dark as one wends down it. It’s easier to ignore something that you can’t see, even though you know it’s hiding in plain sight.
I live in this beautiful village, a place where COVID-19 runs rampant. And I’m scared out of my wits.
How can people be so stupid? Covidiots! Everyone I see through the safety of my windows seems to be so blissfully ignornant. Haven’t they heard of social distancing? And not a one of them is wearing a mask, none that I can see, anyway.
Yes, I get it. I even went outdoors, but from the safety of my backyard. Sure, those nagging weeds on my lawn, coupled with the bare patches, are driving me nuts. But the picnic table invited me to have a seat and drink some coffee while I stared at the bad news in the Sunday paper. As I sit here at the computer, I hear my neighbors chatting with friends. I only wish I had the nerve to join them. I’d be welcome, of course, but I can’t bring myself to do it.
Am I being paranoid? Or is it because of the 9,038 cases in my county with 329 deaths, with 500 of those cases being in my town alone? And those number increasing daily?
I do venture out. For my sanity, I have to. Went for a pleasant drive yesterday. I felt like a stranger in my own land. As I headed down the rural roads, I glanced at the newness of my surroundings, once familiar sights now seen through deprived eyes. The onion fields, growing in dirt black as night, shot up plumes of green. Apple orchards faded blossoms gave way to hints of fruit. Horses snatched up patches of grass, occasionally raising their heads to gaze at nothing. Dairy farmers led their cows out to pasture. I drank all this in, thirsty for the beauty.
My hands are rough and wrinkled from overwashing. My teeth are sore from clenching. Even my eyes look hollow and I’ve lost weight. Food gags me. Been meaning to sleep for a full night but my body has other ideas and keeps me awake. I’ve been undone with anxiety far too often than I care to admit. Instead of my journal filled with my innermost thoughts, random observations and ideas for future stories, it’s now a daily compilation of how many cases and deaths New York State has, as well as my county and town.
I won’t take a chance on mingling with the general population, or shop in grocery stores just yet. We haven’t reached the top of the curve yet where I live and more people are falling victim to the unseen killer. The past two months have moved glacially. There’s no indication of what follows this. I follow Andrew Cuomo’s daily pressers and he’s giving the straight talk on what he’d like to see happen.
But yet no one can predict what will happen, what will follow, what will be. Our new abnormal, for now, at least.
Deep within, I realize all of this is temporary. It has to be. Spanish Flu, SARS, H1N1…they eventually resolved. And yes, patience is running thin, but Nature has no timeline. It does what it wishes, when it wishes to. It is important to remember that we will get past all this. Nothing lasts forever, and neither will COVID-19.
One day, hopefully soon, I’ll head out to my writers’ group (now meeting via Zoom) and have lunch with my friends after it’s over. There will be picnics in my backyard, celebrating Easter and a graduation and maybe a birthday or two. I’ll dine inside a restaurant instead of ordering takeout and delivery. Those neighbors of mine will talk to me next to the fence, instead of shouting a safe distance away. And I’ll walk the charming streets of my village, where all of the houses are quirky examples of architecture, and sit on the now-closed beach next to the lake.
All of the nightmares will be behind me, I’ll sleep again, dreaming of everything and nothing, safe in my world, knowing I survived the worst to live my life the best way I can. If nothing else, to appreciate the beauty of the life given me in the time that I have, and living it in memory of those whose ability to do the same was taken from them.