The Loop

The days are an endless loop. Wake up, lie in bed a little longer than I “should,” although I have nowhere to be. Make coffee, take the dog outside while it’s brewing. Take several deep breaths of cold, moist air and try to convince myself that today will be okay. Watch my dog sniff around, oblivious to the fact that a pandemic has swept the globe and taken hundreds of thousands of lives in its maw. Oblivious that the economy is a widening crevasse swallowing millions of people into unemployment. Oblivious that despair is around every corner.

My dog does her business, a strangely comforting reminder that life persists. Throw a few sticks, watch her prance after them. When she gets bored and my hands get cold, go inside.

Read the news, just enough to be reminded that life will not be returning to normal for a very long time. Enough to feel a pang of panic about if—when?—someone I love gets sick.

Think about how I moved across the country and upended everything for a job that is now remote. Chuckle, then feel grateful for having decided early to come home and ride out this disaster with my partner. Chuckle again at the fact that we’re staying with friends in a 600-square-foot apartment. Try not to think too much about this, because claustrophobia compounds anxiety.

Sit on the floor using the coffee table as a desk. Respond to emails, scroll social media, try not to read news about all the media outlets that are folding. Remember the thousands of dollars I’m owed by a teetering media company. Email Accounts Payable. Chuckle about how I’ll never receive a reply.

Make more coffee. Try to get work done, whatever that means. The things I write cannot accurately mirror the intensity and variability of my emotions. Find solace in concrete tasks, like responding to emails and attending video conference calls. Smile at my colleagues, who appear tired and a little numb, like me. Hang up the call and feel aimless. Do the dishes.

Talk to friends who lost their jobs. Ask what I can do to support them. They shrug. I nod. Check my phone for texts and calls that signal we’re still looking out for each other. But this is week three, and communication has gotten quieter. Some days there’s nothing to say.

Make tea. Let it get cold while I stare at my screen. Glance at my to-do list. Get a little bit of work done, then look around the apartment and wonder when this is all going to end. Feel guilty for having trouble adjusting to the new normal. Wonder why the walls are painted baby blue.

Go for a walk with my partner and the dog. Feel like a human for a fleeting 30 minutes. Say a little prayer of thanks for my flushed cheeks, my dog’s floppy ears, and my partner. Wonder when the trees will start budding. On the way home, stop at the store for a gallon of milk. The cashier says the pandemic is a hoax that happens every election year. Nod and say nothing. Get in the car and remember that the cashier is on the front lines.

Decide what to eat for dinner. Cook because we have to eat, not because it’s enjoyable. Feel nostalgia for the days when cooking was relaxing, when it was the best part of my day. Eat quietly. Do the dishes.

Try to read a book about something that interests me. After a few pages, lose interest and sit on the couch mindlessly. Laugh with roommates about normal life things, and almost feel normal for a few minutes. Make dessert because why not. Watch an episode of a show I used to like but don’t anymore. Sit on the couch in the dark, paralyzed, and remember that tomorrow will be exactly like today.

Get into bed, exhausted but not sleepy. Wonder if anything will make me feel happy or creative tomorrow. Close my eyes.

A view from a beautiful local hike

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