Following the guidelines of those in power – those that I really struggle to believe, on a daily basis, have serious matters in-hand — I put off grocery shopping as long as I could. Coffee, the last boiled egg, a stale heel of bread and some frozen berries was breakfast. Nothing else remained in my ‘fridge except a questionable-looking, half-consumed smoothie. I headed out to my usual food store. Not a very big place. Almost like a bodega. I should have expected then – and I did, really – a line just to enter the place. It snaked down the length of the store, and the lengths of both adjacent stores. The single-file faces of the people waiting – the requisite six feet apart – were grim, bored, tired-looking. Jeans. Saris. Sweatpants. Yoga pants. Slippers. Masked, and un-masked. There didn’t seem to be much talking, even between those that had obviously come there together. What an odd scene. It felt like the olden-days of rationing. Then it hit me: we are rationing now. Human contact. Joy. Conversation. In some cases, civility and common sense. It’s creating a palpable mix of weariness and tension.
One of the store clerks — a line-enforcer, apparently — hung out with us and told Sesame Street-caliber jokes. No one laughed but he didn’t seem to mind. I’d left my phone in my car and had nothing to read beyond my shopping list. I felt awkward and constrained. I looked ahead as we inched forward, careful to keep my distance from the man in front of me. Stopping again, I looked behind, at the young woman who was standing, like me, sans phone or book. Ok; no eye contact happening. Everyone behind and ahead seemed to be looking down or away.
I heard a great line today, as I was getting ready to make my tight commute to the store and back. A woman was sharing her fatigue online and said, “Well, here we are: the 87th day of March.” Exactly. March has always been a long work month. Under current circumstances, it seems weirdly never-ending and ominous. For me, pretty much a month of Groundhog Day (the movie) moments. House cleaning; laundry; dog-walking; gardening; reading and streaming. Rinse and repeat. But one aspect of March has felt completely random, unexpected, and curious.
It started about two weeks ago. Just before we were given Stay Put orders. Out and about, I ran into someone I hadn’t seen in over ten years. And, later that same day I got a phone call from someone else I hadn’t heard from in almost six months, now living in Las Vegas. Three days later, a similar event: a text from a former-love of mine. Since we’d parted he’d been married twice, but had kept me in his Contacts. A trickle soon turned into a flood: calls, texts, emails of re-connection — with people I’d been so close to — after months, years, and even a decade of interrupted conversations. Lost friendships. But… not lost, as it turns out.
“I’ve been thinking about you…” is the lovely way that so many re-connections are happening now. “I’ve been wondering if you’re ok?” How much sweeter these words sound and feel; not only after a long spell of silence (for whatever reason), but in this time of instability, insecurity and even mortal danger. And suddenly it doesn’t even matter Why You Never Called; or that You Moved Away Without Even Telling Me; or, That Thing You Said Really Hurt Me. This frightening time – even before The Virus — prompting a scarcity and ‘rationing’ of our humanity has, I think, somehow been a catalyst. At least in my world. To re-think and re-calibrate whatever went sideways. But without analysis. Or recriminations. Just the simple, heartfelt statement: “I’ve really missed you”. What an unmistakable Silver Lining.