Covid was a journey into restlessness. When I went to San Francisco and saw people wearing masks and I heard about the Coronavirus and everyone warned us about going—aren’t you worried about getting sick? they’d say—there was no way I could have predicted a total world shut down———and thus, a restlessness, an irritability, and an acceptance would follow.
I thought the world was going to end. I was one of those people. I was wary at first. I felt like this would all blow over. But that day I went to the grocery store and saw all the toilet paper sold out, I thought maybe I should jump on the bandwagon. A store fully stocked, except for the toilet paper. So I store-hopped in search of toilet paper and hand sanitizer. We stockpiled canned food and emergency meals. We constructed bugout bags filled with all the necessities for surviving the most hostile terrain. We watched apocalyptic, end-of-the-world movies and TV series to prepare—such as Contagion and Station Eleven.
Michelle baked bread, I walked the dog and steered clear of all the neighbors. They were sick and I didn’t want to die. I thought of conspiracies: maybe this is the Illuminate’s way of separating us, because a world separated doesn’t have much of a fight when it comes to global domination.
I remembered when I was told about the secret camps this government had constructed so that they could shepherd us into them when the time was right—when we all believed that this was the safest, easiest way; the government was to be trusted and we all must pile into these camps to be taken care of like pets. We’d be pets to the Illuminate, trained and obedient because we saw no other choice. This was survival.
We built an indoor trampoline for Annmarie so that when we’d shut ourselves in, she’d have a mode of unloading all her useless energy. We cleared the living room and turned it into a roller disco.
I downloaded Spotify and started discovering new bands and downloading them so that when the shit hit the fan and the internet stopped working, I’d have plenty of music to get me through.
Michelle discovered a different sort of spirituality so that when these religious nuts showed up on our doorstep with pitchforks and torches, she’d be ready.
We bought vegetables from a local farm. Drive half an hour to a bumpy, dirty, shifty road, wait in line with masks on, and one after another, we would pull up and pick up our vegetables.
We bought a camper van. It was the only way we could travel so we took up camping because one day it might be all we had left.
We bought a new puppy.
Eventually things cleared and vaccines were being administered. I was wary; we were all wary. Do these vaccines even work? It’s mind control. We’ll all be slaves. Haven’t you ever the read the book Divergent? It’s happening just like that.
People started travelling again. Are they crazy?
We stocked up on Covid-tests. Annmarie went back to school and she wore a mask every day—is this for real? She wanted to see her friends outside of school. At the stores, people were wearing masks. Everyone wore masks. This is the end of the world. It was so depressing. We were all faceless shoppers. We had no names. What we looked like, who we were, hidden behind these veils. I told myself stories that I liked covering up my face. I don’t mind because I don’t want people seeing me. It’s why I always wear sunglasses. Michelle became agoraphobic and I started to drive more often. I used to be a nervous driver and now I drive all the time. I love to drive now. At first I had to drive because someone had to get us groceries.
Things were going back to normal.
I went to my first open-mike in years. I was just an image on a screen. It was unreal. I was condensed to a box. Facebook had won. We were all just faces. On a screen. In a box. I had so many friends and I knew their faces but I didn’t know them—we were all strangers, living in our own filtered bubbles. This was the end of civilization.
Frustrated, restless, I took to taking more errands than needed because I needed to get out and stretch my legs. I walked the dog more often than I should have because otherwise, what else would I have done with my time?
Michelle started her own business. She started selling dolls and dollhouse furniture on Etsy.
I wrote a lot. Took a lot of writing classes on Zoom.
The camper van was unsustainable because we had nowhere to store it in the winter. The guy we had bought it from said: We don’t winter in Vermont. We couldn’t just up and leave. We had a teenage girl to take care of. We would have had to keep it plugged in on days there was no sun or else the battery would die. So much for solar power. We sold it to a used car lot and made back a fraction of what we had originally paid. It was a loss we had to make.
I went to my first open-mike in person, and I was nervous. I’ve never been nervous about going onstage. I was out of practice and my anxiety was at a high.
I wore a mask. There were three other performers, two of them wore masks. There were two other people in attendance—they were not wearing masks.
I took off my mask when I read. So much for needing to hide my face.
Off stage, I mingled. The other mask-wearer played the fiddle, then took off his mask and never put it back on. I went outside, took off my mask, and looked for a cigarette to bum.
This was our world.
More and more open-mikes, less people wore masks. Is this really happening? Everything’s going back to normal. The world, as we knew it, is coming to an end.
We went to Maine and we brought masks with us on our trip. It was the first time we travelled with our new puppy, who was now a full-grown, eight-pound dog. The first time we had travelled since giving up the van. The dog who we had named Velvet sat on my lap the whole trip while Michelle drove. She was so well-behaved.
We stayed in an air B&B. Michelle showed me the town she grew up in. No one wore masks. Things were slowly going back to normal.
Every time we leave the house, Michelle brings a bottle of hand sanitizer. I used to douse both hands in sanitizer every time I left a store; now I forget to bring it with me when I leave the home.
Today we went to a large, in-door flea market. A few vendors wore masks, but only a few. People were smiling; I could see their faces as they talked. They were shaking hands. I watched them exchange products for cash and then go on their way. The crowd was huge; there were so many people, so many faces, so many germs, so much happiness and joy, that it made it rather difficult to remember that this kind of event wouldn’t have been allowed to happen more than a year ago. It almost makes me forget that these past few years were spent mostly inside, at home, with my family.
When we left, Michelle doused her hands with sanitizer and told me to hold out my own….