You know that whole hourglass thing. The race against time, where you feel like every second matters. You begin utilizing time differently. Seconds are spliced into bits and pieces of seconds and then your mind does these weird things, like tricking you into thinking you’ll spontaneously combust if you don’t have the answer or complete the task. This is how I’ve felt over the past month, waking up each morning to find the outbreak hitting the West coast first, then the East, then Cuyahoga county, then Ohio. In my profession, I’ve gone from thinking I’ve seen just about everything to simply and brutally asking, “have I done enough?”
Some may argue, vehemently, that I’ve failed them. Yet some thank me in the hallways for keeping the doors of my family’s business open. Opposites of a struggle where everyone feels as if any measure is too late. People rally around a common enemy when it is seen. But this? This is like a black snake in the water at night. You only become afraid after its brushed past your leg, and you realize you’re too many strokes from shore to stave your fear. We’re learning about this virus as we go, without much guidance other than to stay 6 feet away from each other and to kill any-and-all germs. Healthy people are needed to perpetuate our culture, which is, let’s face it, about making money and not actual culture.
I’ve found myself finding any excuse to sneak away, alone, so that I can read the bad news on my phone. As if the device itself would suddenly give me the one line I crave: “it’s all just a hoax.” Except it’s only more of the same, every time. More infected, more dead, no supplies. Stay at home, but you’re free to order carryout and go to work under 8-million exemptions. I’ve come home from work over the past month and sat at the dinner table, mindlessly eating food that suddenly has no taste, hoping that by doing the same thing over and over again, I’m squeezing something, anything, out of nothing.
I was out my woods the other day. Winds were 50-60 miles per hour, and this massive black cherry came down just yards ahead of me. It was a glorious way to go out for a tree, just the way it gave itself to the wind. The virus is even taking my trees I felt. The trunk had lodged into the joint of another tree, and then squirrels soon began to run back and forth, transferring their hoards from one hiding place to the next. That fast. The tree had given itself to the forest, to life. Even in death there is a purpose. But I still didn’t want to die, and I still don’t now.
Americans like a purpose. Having shit to do. They like their luxurious cars, and Netflix. The superiority of their preferences. Our routines and beliefs, which, though polarized, offer comfort against what lies deeply within us that we keep ignoring. COVID-19 is forcing us to reckon with the dark and crawling shadows within us. I see my colleagues at work as they grapple with it. They go through the stages of grief each day. I go through the stages with them.
This can’t be real. Can itbe? Is it. Is it? We bargain for reassurances from one another. Then the conference room falls silent yet again unitl one of us says, "but seriously..."
Perhaps we won’t have as much money when we come out on the other side of this thing, but then again, we may not even have our way of life. Nothing is assured. Nor are our lives. I have made friends, both religious and of other schools of thought, and they all agree to some certain extent, that what we are faced with presently, is a battle of unseen proportions. Unseen measure, which will force us inward before we can outwardly transcend the present.
None of this changes the fact that this thing is coming, for us all. And fast. We’re even told now that we should assume that all have it. And so, even though I don’t like to think about it, I’ve been forced to picture that tree, and the way it shook the ground beneath me as I watched it fall. It was a beautiful sensory experience, almost as if the wind muted itself and I was able to feel it give way. All for me. A private moment with God. Still doesn’t change the fact that I’m scared. Even now. But whatever came of great people or things hadn’t they been scared out of their gourds?