I can’t read any more. Nothing holds my interest. I’ve been skimming the same book for two months now, and I’m only 50 pages in. I keep reading a couple of lines each night, hoping there’s a turn of phrase that will draw me in. But there never is. I set the book beside my bed and dream of the days when I would read until my eyes could no longer stay open. Now I just lie awake, thinking about words that might move me. Words that once moved me.
Trying to write is an effort in futility. My sentences are all empty, meaningless. The story line wanders aimlessly, the characters are dull. I’ve stopped sending queries for my memoir. I don’t have the strength to live those experiences again. Not now. Maybe not ever. Perhaps those pages are best kept in a drawer, yellowed and aging, unseen.
I am drawn to catastrophic TV—Game of Thrones, The Walking Dead—I look for humanity in the horror. There is little to be found. I wonder who I would be in the battle at the end of the world. Would I hide in the shadows with a knife, waiting to protect my life from those who might try to take it? Or would I drink the poison in an empty room, welcoming the deep, dark forever sleep, an ending of my own choosing?
I took my youngest son to college amidst Colorado wildfires, soot-filled air, and masks. Next week, my daughter is driving through the Washington wildfires to return to school. California is burning. An apocalyptic orange envelops the coast. And we continue to drink from plastic water bottles and overload our landfills and question the science that tells us just how precariously close to death this little blue planet is.
I eat. Homemade brand Mint Cookies & Cream. Fudge Stripes. Spoonfuls of peanut butter with chocolate chips sprinkled on top. The spoons turn into bowls. There is no end to my hunger. I am insatiable, always looking for more, even as my stomach begs for a reprieve and the angles of my face turn soft.
The wine washes it all away. I’ve switched from red to white because it feels lighter. Chardonnay instead of Cabernet. At least for now. But there is no light to be found at the bottom of the glass. And the days grow shorter. The red beckons.
I think about my kids constantly, obsessively. Are they happy? Are they content? Are they surviving? Could they possibly be thriving? Are they carrying the same amount of weight I’m carrying? I want to lighten their loads, but my back is buckling. Are they asymptomatic carriers? If I hug them, will it be my demise? My mom’s? I am willing to sacrifice myself, but not her. My beautiful, white-maned mother, trapped in a castle full of fellow octogenarians, shouting to her loved ones through the windows, waiting, waiting in her wheelchair until it is safe to once again hold her grandbabies’ cheeks between her paper-skin hands.
I am angry. So angry. I’m angry about the invisible particles that might slip underneath my mask and make their way to my asthmatic lungs. I’m angry my seniors were robbed of their graduation celebrations. I’m angry so many choose to fight against the most basic precautions, that we care so little about each other and cannot be inconvenienced for the greater good. I’m angry a horrible excuse for a human was chosen to “lead” us through this mess, and that he fails miserably at every turn. I’m angry so many don’t see the grifter for who is, that excuses are made for his inhumanity at every turn. I’m angry my rainbow mask brings side-eyed, judgmental glances. I’m angry our black brothers and sisters are still fighting for justice and equality. I’m angry we cannot seem to love and respect each other. I’m angry my 25-year marriage ended the same way—with hurt and disdain and words that cut like knives. How can we have hope for peace and understanding in the world if we cannot find it in the place we called home for a quarter of a century? If we cannot protect those we once loved, how do we ever embrace those who are different? Who have dissenting beliefs? Whose faith is placed in a different god? Or no god at all? Whose skin is two shades darker?
I miss hugging.
Is this just pandemic life? Is this what we all are living? The fatigue? The dismay? The hopelessness that settles like a heavy, wet fog? The sirens’ call of a waiting bed at all hours of the day? Is this what we have brought upon ourselves?
Do I eat the donuts? Two or five? Does it matter? It doesn’t, really. Not in the vast scheme of things. I eat the donuts. All of them. Their sugary weight is a lump in my belly, holding me down when I’d rather fly away, tethering me to the dirt and grass of this earth. I lick the cinnamon sugar from my fingers—a luxury I shouldn’t afford myself when microscopic killers could linger under my fingernails. But I take the chance to enjoy the sweet because it feels momentarily safe—a small, insignificant comfort.
I haven’t been anywhere for weeks, after all.
There is no safe place to go.