I’ve seen death hanging about lately, mostly in odd faces and dreams. Not Death death. More like vice principal death, the sort that stands there, arms crossed, desperate for attention and has a bad temper.
Anyway, amidst my physical therapy appointments and travel plans, death cropped up in my messages. It wasn’t a surprise, given the many mortality-based messages I’ve opened as of late.
The message from death was better news that I had expected. A room had opened up with a view of the desert. And so I booked that.
2020 was a distinctly bad year and is burned into my memory. It wasn’t just the pandemic, although that sure had a motherfucking big role. Not will I soon forget the dark days of New York’s Covid Spring, the eerie silence punctuated by the banging of pots and pans at dusk.
2020 was a lot of other bad things too.
I was attacked on a Zoom call in front of the entire faculty by an angry woman who claimed that I discriminated against black students. It didn’t matter that none of it was true nor that she knew none of the students nor even that many, including my black colleagues, called immediately afterwards to express their outrage. It was ugly and awful, and I had just been laid off. I was never given the chance to respond nor ever received an apology.
I received a call from my mother’s caretaker with the news of my mother’s death. It wasn’t sudden – it was more of a relief – but the image of the fire escape stairs and the multitude of drinks along with repeated viewing of the climax of Mozart’s Le Nozze di Figaro (my mother’s favorite opera) are indelible memories. As was the Zoom funeral that followed.
I had both of my knees replaced and was stuck in a hospital room with no air conditioning, the bedsheet sticking to my back. They didn’t do anything about it until a day later when they noticed that my temperature was high, and I explained the connection.
Covid-19 Exhaustion has set in. The distancing tape is peeling, masks are hanging and the stores and subways are packed again. What is going on?
I guess all of the signs have been up too long, and we need new words to remind us that the pandemic is still here.
Perhaps we should send dead people to walk the street?
Or maybe a sign like this: Do we not remember what happened in March? Do we not remember being stuck in our apartments? Do we not remember the silence of the city? The empty streets? The death tolls? Are we that fucking stupid?
For all the complaining about Trump, maybe we deserved him in the end.