The world outside my window just seems so surreal, the way it’s picked up and continued as though there is nothing deadly and invisible all around us. From my window, you would think nothing had changed. From my window, though, my worldview is so incredibly limited.
It’s within the house that I’m painfully more aware of what my world is these days, like a guppy in a great big fishbowl. The wind chaps the window facing west and can beat against the brick that side of the building hard enough to make the fan in the bathroom clink and clank. Several times a day, I hear the downstairs tenant, a lovely Pakistani man running a liquor store, reciting the adhan, or some other rendition of an Islamic prayer.
Most days, it’s just me and the cat.
Freya doesn’t know what quarantine is. She knows what self-isolation is, because she’s always lived that life. Now, I’m living like her, it feels.
There is this sensation, for sure, so many days into the quarantine, that even with the phone calls, text messages, Zoom or Google Hangout meets, and a regular work schedule, the fishbowl is still, somehow inescapable.
Most of us weren’t made to be this reclusive. So, when a recluse like me starts to think this is too much, I feel like that’s saying something significant. Like, when this started, I might’ve joked, “Oh, I’ll be fine. I lived for two years in a village where I was the only native English speaker within an hour’s drive or so.” Or there was life on Shelter Island, only accessible by ferry, where my time in New York began five years ago today.
This is a different feeling though, because the choice over whether or not to be “social,” in some small way, has really been taken from us–not by government officials but by the virus itself. And, so, there’s this surreal helpless feeling that pairs nicely with a glass of anxiety.
Even when you are doing something incredibly productive or impactful, the bubble makes everything seem so insignificant and yet so significant simultaneously. I did my dishes and vacuumed today–and that that seems like something worth writing about should say everything that needs to be said about this horrific era.
When I was done with the dishes, I wondered, “Do I actually still exist? Am I a ghost yet?”
I’m joking, sort of. There is something about this moment in our history, though, that makes you feel faded somehow, as if given you could just disappear into your home for weeks on end, how long before you just fade out like Patrick Swayze at the end of Ghost?
If a tree falls in a pandemic but it was quarantined through the whole thing, does it make a sound?
And then just as I write that, my cat jumps up and cuddles on my chest making plenty of noise. My phone pings with a new message. And a video of President Bush, of all people, reminds me that I’m not the only one in a fishbowl and that we’re still in this together.
These times won’t be remembered for how hard they were, for how down and out they brought us, or at least those will be the parts of it we learn to move beyond.
No, I think what we’ll remember most in the months and years to come will be the smaller wins–when doing the dishes and sitting down to write your heart out felt like a crucial feat because it made you feel a tiny inkling better, when you locked eyes with your cat and blinked your gratitude her way for how she took care of you when you needed her to most, when the tenant downstairs, alone in his store, in his own bubble, chanted the call to prayer in a time when we all needed the sacred to hear us. No, we won’t fade just yet, most of us; we’ve still got good work to do, good love to give, and a home to keep clean.