March 15, 2020
I was on a coach bus coming back from New York City and the best weekend of my life when I got the email. I don’t remember the exact wording but I’m sure it was just like every storefront flyer and newsletter “due to current health concerns regarding Covid-19…” There were more words in the email than I cared to read but the important gist was my place of work was closed until at least mid-April. Great. No work. Gym closed. All classes moved to online. I felt empty. I’m the kind of person who needs a purpose, reason to leave the house and suddenly all three of my main purposes were gone.
Not much later I felt a tightness in my chest, my throat felt like it was closing. This must be the virus which I knew I had. I had just spent three days in NYC — the national epicenter for cases of coronavirus. The first death had been the day before. I had seen people cough just across from me on the subway, I had been in an Uber with a coughing driver. Of course I had the virus. I was going to have to stay in my bedroom for two weeks to avoid infecting my roommate. My friend beside me soon warned me that such a tightness was far more likely some simple anxiety and he was proven correct shortly thereafter when the discomfort disappeared.
Besides, how bad could things be? Maybe I’d get more time to ride my bike and write blogposts. And still, the music festival that was three weeks away was still on. Of course, by the time I arrived in Fairfax that festival had been cancelled. It was a long two hour drive back at home at 10 PM.
It was not a fun two weeks. I didn’t know if I was a carrier, I didn’t know if I was a risk. I had to stay inside, stagnating on the couch, drifting between living room, bedroom and kitchen. I visited my parents — I had to make sure beforehand that they were okay with potentially getting sick. My dad did the duty of visiting my grandparents and outright asking if they were okay with the risk that seeing family could kill them.
The two weeks was brutal. Funny enough no one I came into contact with got sick, I never got sick, none of the dozen friends I saw in NYC got sick. Somehow, I was physically unscathed. Funny enough, quarantine hasn’t been as bad as I thought. I still receive 75% of my average wages every two weeks and without the cost of gas (I don’t drive) or eating, out my costs are damn near the same in terms of ratio. Going to the grocery store is different, everyone wears masks, yesterday I got yelled at for going in the wrong entrance. But it’s really not awful. I got a coffee on the way to the store, I ordered take out a on Sunday. I went for a bike ride that was frankly incredible. Never before have I felt safe to ride through Carytown but I did yesterday and the roads were smooth and the cars few and far between. With no job I go out of town to the Bay almost every weekend, I see my grandparents, aunt and cousin far more than the traditional once every couple months.
Social Media is different, arguably better. People aren’t posting the same pictures of expensive vacations and designer shopping trips. People are posting pictures in slippers and sweatpants. I know it will get old but for now it’s pretty refreshing. The neighborhoods are quiet, people go for runs and sit, six feet apart, in the parks. Yesterday I stopped by my mom’s front porch and just talked for a half hour before going home to make dinner.
Honestly, I could live like this for quite a long time. My only concern is the small businesses — what will my favorite record shop do, my favorite clothing store? And God, I really miss going to concerts. I miss the stuffiness of a crowded room. Isolation is weird. Not going outside much, the situation doesn’t feel totally real. Apparently, people will die ,but I won’t notice. I hate to put it so callously but I’m cooped up inside, I’d rather watch TV instead of the news, read a book, do homework. Simply, I think the best thing for me is to take this as a partially paid opportunity to go outside and exercise when the weather is nice, do my classwork, and move on. You think of this as a crisis, a looming economic freefall and mass death. No sir, no one will feel safe, comfortable with that mindset.