While the Covid rages on and Dr. Fauci haunts my fears and fantasies, I’m starting to stress about returning to normalcy.
Can I ever cleanse, clothe and commute to work again? Or small talk with people in person?
Will others appreciate how deliciously Sauvignon Blanc pairs with breakfast bacon and eggs?
Do I dare to eat a real peach v. the mealy hairball that groceries deliver?
Do I have to go out? For dinner? Do I still want to plan months ahead for five-star restaurant reservations to pay $250 for a date dinner featuring Pacific geoduck, which is not a mallard tagged with GPS for migration data but a big slimy clam like Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell?
Can I summon again the impactful obscenities I once generously shared with other drivers who don’t motor with my Sterling Moss skill and aplomb?
I have even bigger concerns for when the Covid begins to clear:
I’m doing fine as is.
I’ve worked at home for almost 10 years. Like many mammals, I’m used to hibernating and foraging in my lair. I’m happily logy from easily available food and booze, and have no beloved mate or spawn here to avoid or to lovingly scold me. My subterranean grotto has a dusty rowing machine if the mood should strike to shake my relaxing torpor.
I used to chortle at Ignatius Reilly’s slovenly repose and favoring of the occasional cheese dip. But now he’s my #1 influencer, surging ahead of the Kardashians and even Cristiano Ronaldo!
The guilt. Oh, the guilt.
I’ve had virtually zilch to complain about. So — and please respect my pain — I’m wracked with remorse that I’ve had virtually zilch to complain about while others suffer.
During this Covid situation, I’ve had nightmares, difficulty sleeping, loss of motivation, irritability, a sense of numbness and thoughts about the meaning of life. The internet says these are all symptoms of “survivor guilt.”
While I hear that not surviving is worse, can you imagine how much suffering I’ll be suffering from not suffering from the Covid for the rest of my life?!
I shared my breakthrough realization with my virtual therapist who’s been helping me crack my emotionally protective shell.
She helpfully advised me, “Jesus H. Christ. Shake it off. Get the f**k over yourself, you irredeemably neurotic asshole. You sicken me. You’re beyond help. Stick a fork in yourself, we’re done here. Why the f**k do I do talk therapy for a living anyway? My parents said supporting me through my PhD was a ‘glorious’ waste of time, money and potential. They said I was smart and mean enough to be a millionaire divorce lawyer.
“Ok, good session,” she concluded. “I’ll ‘see’ you next week.”
As an empath, I worry my therapist is struggling with the Covid situation and might need help.
My novel I’m not writing.
Before this Covid, I never had the time to write my novel. With this Covid, I’ve had plenty of time to write my novel. I haven’t started my novel.
It also seems my novel is not writing itself, in spite of a gripping plot, unforgettably beloved characters, and also evil ones such as the female protagonist’s ex-boyfriends who all die from dismemberment. There’s also ROFL humor, action so exciting you’ll leak pee, squirmy romance, and a shocking denouement with satisfying resolution. Closed with life lessons no tourist gift shop fridge magnet could ever capture.
The timely yet timeless story I’m not writing screams the kind of Oscar/Golden Globe blockbuster cinéma we flip by on Netflix such as “Love Wedding Repeat” starring Sam Claflin (“Different versions of the same day unfold as Jack juggles difficult guests, unbridled chaos and potential romance at his sister’s wedding.”)
Still, I can’t seem to move past my novel’s compelling opening line, “There once was a man from Nantucket who called himself Ishmael.”
Not even titling my novel.
I’m feeling the title should reference the literary classics while reflecting our human condition amid this historic pandemic.
Not to crowd-source, but which of my working titles do you love the most:
“The Grapes I Hath”
“The Covid Catcher on the Fly”
“Les Grippe Misérables”
I wanted to update “Phantom of the Opera” — and yes, for you philistines, it first was a novel — because of the mask thing. But so far I don’t have anything better than “Facemask of the Proper.”
Not learning anything.
I’m failing to leverage the incessant hours stuck at home with the tortuously dragging ticktock of the mocking Dali melting clock and nothing to do.
So I’m not finally reading James Joyce and other indecipherable literary greats; learning piano to plink out Beethoven’s “Für Elise” let alone Billy Joel, Elton John or Kaikhosru Shapurji Sorabji’s “Opus clavicembalisticum”; honing my French to make Parisian waiters barely suppress la dérision; or pursuing my passion for the fine art of decoupage.
(Please do not mock decoupage. The decoration of an object by gluing paper cutouts with other decorative elements is not to be scoffed at. The greatest artists in history — Michelangelo, Monet, Manet, Matisse, Munch, Magritte, Mondrian, and that’s just the M’s — began with decoupage. Look it up on the internet.
Still ignoring self-care.
I shoulda coulda used these Covid months to make myself somewhat less, as the French say, disgracieux.
This would include tweezing, clipping, shaving, sculpting, turning my six-pack abs into eight then ten, having biceps, exfoliating followed by moisturizing, and softening then pushing back toenail cuticles. And if time permitted, catching up with family.
Unfortunately I haven’t been doing anything with my Covid blessings. Quel dommage.
Jeffrey Denny is a Washington writer.