The morning had been cloudy and cool but the day had cleared out and warmed up to a spectacular spring afternoon. The flowers were beginning to bloom, and they made his nose run, but he didn’t care. He loved to photograph them. He loved the insects who did their lives’ work in those transient petals.
Time had become a bit elastic. The afternoon stretched out and the sun hung in the sky a little long. This was not, in itself, a bad thing. He had prayed for years for life to slow down, and out of a million prayers which had gone ignored, it seemed that this one had been answered. Time had been the fiercest battle of his life, and the one he knew he couldn’t win. He fought it anyway. He had wasted too much time.
“Give me one reason to stay here, and I’ll turn right back around.”
What if our feet weren’t tied down? What if we could be anywhere we wanted to be, any time, if we just knew how to do it? That’s how the angels do it. I know because one told me that one night. That was a nice night.
Stormy Tuesday – a gray sky and angry wind greeted him. The dreams had been weird, very weird, too weird to remember. This was new refrigerator day. In the space of two weeks, his refrigerator, freezer, furnace and oven had all failed. The refrigerator was still limping along, but it was making a terrible noise and it was about twenty five years old, too old to find replacement parts. At the appointed time, two very strong guys showed up with the new fridge and hauled away the old one. It was exhausting, but he got all the food into the new fridge before the ice cubes melted.
He was mindful that he could type in a few keystrokes and a couple of large men would bring a new fridge and haul away the old one. He was grateful about that. He wasn’t grateful that four major appliances had died all at the same time. It was difficult dealing with strangers. It was dangerous. He washed his hands three times while the men installed the fridge. With the large men mercifully gone, he picked up his pen,
Anybody who thinks we’re going back to where we were even three months ago is wrong. They’re living in a fool’s paradise. The ancestors have told me that this is a time of change. Going back is an impossibility. It simply won’t happen. Thirty million people are newly out of work. The world is shut down, all of our favorite places – no baseball, bars or restaurants. The only crowds allowed are at the funeral homes, but you have to be dead to get into that club, kinda’ like a Studio 54 for corpses.
The cold and the rain had returned during the day and he stood in the misty rain just to be outside the house. It was as if Winter simply refused to leave, even though Spring’s time had already come. He hated the cold. It hurt.
“There’s an angel with her hand on my head telling me I’ve got nothing to fear…”
It was a stunningly gorgeous morning. The sky was clear and deep blue. The air was cool but not cold. He passed the day doing aimless things and accomplished very little beyond a world-class nap.
In the early evening he made coffee and checked where the markets ended up. The phone rang. It was a dear old friend. Another dear old friend was terminally ill, in hospice care already. This wasn’t just some guy that they both knew. They had all been close since high school. They had all attended each other’s first marriage. There had been divorces, epic parties, heartbreaks, second marriages, new families, clubs and business deals all along. They were all still friends after all of that life. This wasn’t just some sick dude. This was a fellow traveler, a true friend. He picked up his pen,
…damn, damn, damn… God dammit… add another day to the file of days I hoped I would never see. He was so strong and handsome, so good in his soul, I thought he would live forever, that he would be burying me… “Only the good die young.” God is jealous for his angels. The rest of us he leaves alone.
“Holy One, your feckless and irreverent servant asks you to be merciful to him. He’s a good guy, a much nicer guy than I am.”
It was the perfect morning: sunny and warm with only a few wispy clouds to make the sky more interesting. Children’s voices came from somewhere. They were laughing and playing. In a normal year, the crowd would be gathering at Churchill Downs for the running of the Kentucky Derby, and the day would be perfect for it, but this was not a normal year. The Derby might be run in September, but maybe not. Normal had been murdered by the plague.
Before the first cup of coffee was finished he thought about Bobby. Bobby had built his damned kitchen, the room where he stood. Bobby drove every nail. He thought about Mike too, and all the dying. He mused darkly on who would be next.
Like every alligator, like every deer, like every dove on the wing he was wired up to survive, to fight death, to spend every one of life’s breaths in the battle for life. He couldn’t think of it in any other way. He couldn’t conceive of surrender. When he was a kid, he had the whole dying thing figured out: you quit living and go to be with Jesus and learn to play the harp. Now, that just sounded kind of boring.
It was another perfect morning.
The Earth moved closer to the Sun. I felt it just now.
The perfect morning slowly faded into a cloudy, rainy evening. He passed the day planting herbs and flowers in his yard. It was spring and the planting of flowers was important. It was life and defiance.
In the evening there were mushrooms for dinner and mushrooms for desert washed down with whiskey. There were visions. He went to his bed and watched the universe spin by.
The shadow people were close by. He could see them in the corners of his vision – flickering pools of darkness that darted quickly to avoid his direct gaze. He was, of course, a white wizard and he could banish the evil spirits to the outer darkness and he did so with a wave of his hand.
The day was misty rain. He dream-remembered a time when there was no fear. He called up that courage from his soul. The golden BB with your name on it… It wasn’t here today.
“Wild, wild horses couldn’t drag me away.”
Bobby was dying and he couldn’t see him. Some funky-assed lung cancer was killing him. Lung cancer had taken his father and his father’s father. He remembered the old man tied down in the bed because he kept pulling out his IV’s. He cursed everyone who came into the room. But most of all, he cursed his father. He told him he wished he had never been born, and still his father had cared for the old man like a newborn babe. No one should have to hear that, ever. He had asked his dad as they crossed the parking lot on a cool summer night in Texas how he felt, and he was just nine then. His dad shrugged it off, “The cancer has metastasized in his brain. He’s not himself.”
“This is the end – my only friend, the end… I’ll never look into your eyes again.”
It is the cruelest thing in the world. It is the most blessed thing in the world. We make this passage and we kiss and fuck each other, and betray and disappoint each other, and rescue and redeem each other – it is all one sloppy, wonderful mess.
Some funky-assed cancer is killing Bobby. I can’t stand it. This kind of shit shouldn’t happen, not to Bobby. Let it kill some rotten motherfucker who deserves to die, but not Bobby.
The night closed in. His shoulders ached. It was time to let it all go.
The day dawned clear and cool. There had been frost during the night. The air had a freshness about it that reminded him of the Rocky Mountains at high altitude. With so much shut down, people weren’t running their engines so much. There was less smoke and noise. That was the only part of the plague that he liked.
People were getting restless. Humans weren’t built to live this way. They would rush the “reopening” and mess it up and a lot more people would die. The wounded economy would wheel over into a death spiral fueled by a mountain of debt that no one could pay off. The political leaders had betrayed the people. They traded stocks while Rome burned. He picked up his pen,
I won’t forget. I will never forget.
The night fell in a soft gauze of mist and rain.
Cold rain that blows in my face, wash the time out of my eyes. Clean the sadness from my gaze. Let all of that melt into the earth and be gone. There’s nothing here that needs re-stating. Everything is pretty clear. It is obvious. You step away fearfully, the way you always have.
You know that around some corner, it is waiting for you, and your soul bristles with contempt. “Not today. Not today…”
The cat, black as night, oozed from the darkness like a liquid shadow. She was hungry. She was always hungry. She ate the food he gave her and then she went out and killed things in the darkness. At times, he heard their dying cries as she put the coup de grâce on them.It was sickening but it was the way of things. It was the way of things that cats kill baby rabbits. It was the way of things that he cringed in pain with the world. It was just the way of things.
I have lost track of the days. This could be the 37th day or the 57th and they would remain indistinguishable. What mind I had left to lose is certainly gone now. I am talking to insects. I am reading Tarot cards. I suppose this will be the last time I write to you on this topic. The Quarantine is breaking down. People can’t stand the separation any more. I have a certain pity for them, but they are fools… we are fools.
A bunch of Neanderthals had turned the quarantine and social distancing into a suicidal political jihad. They were crowding together, refusing masks and generally giving Darwin’s rule of “natural selection” a good solid test. They would come to regret the result. They spoke about “reopening the economy” in religious tones, as martyrs offering their lives for country and the almighty dollar. It was Kill Grandma season.
A day would come when he would have to make a decision to go out, to resume some semblance of normal life, to finally determine that the scales of risk and reward had tipped in the direction of reward. But how would he know? All information about the plague had been weaponized by the politicians. Even the normal “reliable sources” seemed suspect. He picked up his pen,
I’m not living if I’m not mad. You tried to kill me but that didn’t work. You tried to kill me. Don’t think I’ll forget. You tried to kill me and I’m still living too. You tried to kill me and there’s a bill that comes due. Don’t think I’ll forget.
This will never be over.