Originally published March 30 on Medium
When I was a kid, we used to practice air raid drills. Even though I knew they were drills and an evil Russian bomb wasn’t hurling through the ether aiming for my classroom, I still felt an initial surge of adrenaline. I’d sit under my desk and smile at my friends, knowing the flimsy particleboard above my head couldn’t possibly save me from nuclear annihilation. I felt mostly safe but a little scared. For a moment, we pretended we were in danger and held our breath until we were thanked for our cooperation in the drill.
If last week I was the girl holding her breath under her desk, this week I’m the girl who’s realized that there is no soothing voice telling to get back to our vocabulary lesson. It’s time to exhale. This is not a drill.
No one ever told us what we’d do if in fact, a bomb did drop. We never practiced beyond crouching under desks.
Week 2 is the week we emerged and tried to find our bearings. We know there has been a bomb but it doesn’t look like we imagined. Everything’s in order but also out of order, like a Dali painting. The streets are empty but homes are filled. There are lots of voices, too many voices, and no answers. But we’re making do anyway. Week 2 has felt like the slap against the panic. We’re getting a hold of ourselves.
This week I changed out of sweatpants, got takeout, and went for a run. My crew and I didn’t think (too) much about what we we’d “normally” be doing or where we’d “normally” be going. We stopped asking so many questions. Days fell into rhythm as days are wont to do. Time slipped and tugged as time is wont to do.
The commercials I now sit through reference our collective isolation giving our current situation an air of permanence. The shock of headlines has given way to a steady stream of reminders about this “unprecedented and uncertain time” and “our new normal.” I’m meant to find comfort in being together in isolation. But at week 2, these words feel empty and make me bristle. I watch some neighbors gather a little too close while others crisscross the street to avoid foot traffic. I watch people in grocery stores some gloved, some masked, some exactly as if it were Before. I see how inconsistently people process fear, uncertainty, change and discomfort. I read the chalked messages on sidewalks, signs in windows, and messages on Facebook but then withdraw behind my own four walls.
It’s starting to feel like maybe this will be like the time, years ago, when my grandparents came to babysit my siblings and I for the week. The things I remember: playing cards at our kitchen table; convincing my grandfather that yes, we do watch this much TV when our parents are home; chasing after my sister who gashed her finger on a broken reed while we trekked through the swamp at the end of the street. I was sure we’d have to rush her to the hospital because of loss of blood. (We didn’t.) If you were to ask my siblings, who lived in the same house, at the same time, under the same circumstances, they’d likely color that week in assorted shades of similar hues.
We’re having a shared experience but this week, I’ve only seemed to notice the differences in how we are experiencing it: those with jobs and those without; those with small kids and those with grown ones; those living on coasts and those in the middle; those who support the President and those who don’t; those with health conditions and those without.
But maybe that is where the unity lay. We’re all holding different threads of the same story. At the end of all this, if we keep sharing and listening, we’ll have a clearer picture of these remarkable days.
As we start week 3, what I know for sure is that I don’t know how I’ll feel in another day or week or month. But this is my thread.