It’s necessary to write…to clap the net over the butterfly of the moment. Anonymous
These are strange times, weeks of being cooped up in the confines of our homes like parakeets in a cage. It’s an appropriate analogy since incessant chatter often carries no significance and amounts to little more than noise.
I know this because when I was young, we had a parakeet. Its name was Joe-Joe. I always felt sorry for it, being locked up like that. I tried to educate it, teach it some words. It was a slow learner. “Hello” and “pretty boy, pretty boy,” that was about it.
One day Joe-Joe got loose and flew outside. That was the last we saw of the bird. I had a sad-but-happy ambivalence for Joe-Joe. Finally, it was free. But freedom comes with a cost, even for parakeets. Later that day I saw a hawk.
So here we are, surviving COVID as best we can in our limited excursions. Amid the apocalyptic chatter about an impending American Chernobyl, I decide to start a diary. It’s good to chronicle pandemics, recessions, breakups and breakdowns. The ‘thou-shalt’ and ‘thou-shalt-nots’ of survival are instructive analytics.
But diaries can be dangerous. If you’ve ever kept one, you know. Snoopers are curious of your habits and doings, especially ‘romantic doings and furtive glances.’ I summarily ceased personal notations my senior year in high school after my brother discovered he had enough salacious evidence to blackmail me and most of my friends; plus spoil the reputation of several cheerleaders.
But my COVID diary is plain vanilla. Observations occupy space alongside the daily testing of my vitals. You know, blood pressure, pulse rate, fiber grams, protein counts and caloric intake, things like that. Nobody wants to know these things but you. Besides, after a certain age, ‘romantic doings and furtive glances’ exist only in memory. So, this diary is safe.
Here are a few notes from it for your edification:
April 3. How to tell you’ve spent too much time in the house.
I’m counting the rotations–6–of my coffee cup as it reheats for 30 seconds in the microwave.
- News is stale.
- Craving sugar over lettuce.
- Examining expiration labels on vitamin supplements.
- Time is measured by hunger and days need no names.
- Naps come naturally.
- I’m beginning to like it.
April 5. Gerald calls, bored. Laments his situation. Says he’s had 10 Zoom meetings today. Says he’s been married 50 years and is finally getting to know his wife. Says he didn’t know women talked so much.
April 6. Good news/bad news day. Beach is open, dog is happy. Septic tank stopped up. I discover the true barter value of a roll of toilet paper.
April 7. Things I don’t miss about the old days.
- The urge to hurry. Plenty of time to cook sausage.
- Meetings and traffic.
- Shaking hands. Bowing is better, respectful and sends a humbling holier-than-thou message. I wonder what message mooning might send.
April 8. My first day of total incognito at the post office wearing a mask, sunglasses and gloves. Feels natural.
April 9. Dialogue with wife.
“You’ve been sitting in that same chair for days, mute as well as deaf. What are you thinking?” she asks.
“Nothing. I’ve self-hypnotized. Thinking’s hard work. Giving my brain a break from its labors. It’s been disconnected from my tongue. Why?”
“Are you depressed?”
“Not yet. Self-isolation is nirvana for introverts.”
“You know what I’ve been thinking?” she asks.
“I’m afraid to ask. Probably something to do with work, like dust, or mold or dog hair.” I mumble incoherently certain other details.
“That’s as close as I want to get. Remember, ‘O, the prison of perfection, the joy of just good enough.’” I leave her to meditate on that while I continue to contemplate nothing.
April 11. Today I consider ‘second comings,’ preparations for future pandemics. I envision draining the pool and constructing a fallout bunker in its place. But after computing the cost, I conclude I’m not preparing for my fears, just preparing for my fantasies. Disillusion is always preferable to depression.
April 12. The surreal state of things is finally getting to me. Enough is enough. I now realize we’re living in a Virtual Universe Operating System, an existential individual universe where virtual has become reality. Millennials have finally won. I concede and take a nap.
In dreams my mind flashes back to the old days, the days of parakeets and ‘romantic doings and furtive glances.’
Oh, to hear “pretty boy, pretty boy” again.
April 17, 2020