My writers group was tasked with sharing a short piece about how the COVID-19 pandemic is affecting us. This is what I wrote.
I’m on the phone with my friend from California. He does what so many of us do lately—he asks how I am, and he means, “how are you doing during this pandemic?”
He asks this on a Sunday morning before isolation is the norm, but after events have been cancelled and theatres have closed. I haven’t started working from home yet. COVID-19 feels removed from me, somehow. I say I’m fine, and he says he’s fine, and we move on.
Later, I am on a walk and I feel it. There’s this low thrum of anxiety in me. I still feel connected to him, because we talked that morning. So I text.
“You know, I think the pandemic thing is getting to me. Like this tiny seed of anxiety that has the potential to grow into HG Well’s red weed.”
“I feel ya,” he texts back almost instantly. “What’s on your mind?”
And suddenly I am in tears on the sidewalk. My birthday is a couple weeks away and I won’t be able to go out or get together with friends. Nothing feels fair, and things might get worse before they get better. I’m scared.
“Most news doesn’t change our lives these days,” he says. “This did.”
And through that tiny screen I hold in my trembling hand, he is with me.
All distance has collapsed in the wake of this. My friends across the world are just as close as the friends here in town. There are on the other side of a screen, where I can't touch them.
I get up in the mornings and get dressed and go to my desk. What's so strange is that I've always wanted to be a writer, and I envisioned my life just like this - getting up each morning to sit at my desk and write.
But instead, I do what I have advised others not to do—I read the news. My job requires me to be on top of all the updates. I read as much as I can, sifting and sorting through it so I can package the essentials for other people to read. I try to leave out most of the scary, but I want to say I'm scared, too. I'm six months into a job...seven months, nearly. Where does it go?
That's what the pandemic has done, it's collapsed the whole of my life into something smaller than it was, like a neutron star. Dense. Threatening to become a black hole.
But then, that collapse has brought things in my orbit so much closer than they were. And I’m grateful for that.