Pandemic Diary: March 13-19

March 13

Last night I drove down to my childhood home in Puyallup, where David and Ashley and the baby were hanging out with Mom. The mood was weird and dismal. We all talked about how we were nervous. But also, it was okay and it got better it was good to be together.

Apparently toilet paper is selling out. I got six rolls from Trader Joe’s last night to hold my roommates and me over, but when one of them went to Walmart later, she said they didn’t have any. 

Our poverty of spirit is showing. Our materialism is showing. If we are still collectively saying that we don’t find security in possessions, this pandemic is about to call our bluff. And I’m trying to pin those flaws on “society” and “those jerks in Costco,” but I’m feeling it too. I’m afraid of not having enough money even though I have a safety net. I understand that the coronavirus doesn’t cause diarrhea, but I can imagine a day soon where we can’t leave the house and run out of basic supplies.

I feel like I can lapse into panic easily: I’m worried, and then everyone else is panicking, so sharing the panic makes me feel connected. Yet I don’t want to make panic my default mode. I keep reminding myself: I have my family. I have my friends. I have my communities. We are healthy. Worst case, I go stay in Puyallup at my parents’ big house and play with my dogs and drink nice wine in our big back yard for a while.

March 14

Matt and I were going to visit his parents on the Oregon coast this weekend, but we had to cancel at the last minute. Ashley learned that she may have been exposed to the virus through work, and I’ve been with Ashley. Matt’s parents are old enough that we don’t want to risk it, and they’re safely isolated in their house. But now he doesn’t know when he can see them next.

March 15

Governor Inslee issued a decree (how biblical) that restaurants, bars, and recreational facilities must shut down. Restaurants can continue their takeout services or delivery services, but there is no more eating in. Retail stores can remain open, but with reduced occupancy limits.

That means that my coffee shop will only be allowed to take to-go orders.

This news came when I was Josh’s apartment in Ballard with Kate and Matt and Ashley and David and the baby and John and Steve.

“It’s so weird! It’s so new!” we moaned, all the while eating off the same charcuterie board with our grubby bare fingers and sharing sips of whiskey.

It’s just that we have never lived through something like this. Last week I was terrified and sad, but this week I am enthralled and almost giddy. I wonder what will happen next. I feel so young. I wonder how we will cope next. We’ve nixed “normal life” but we don’t have anything to fill the vacuum yet.

Here’s what I think will come from this time: I think there will be lots of memes. I think there will be lots of humor. I think people are going to bang a lot and there will be lots of babies born next year. I think people are going to be vocal about their fears. I think people are going to blog about how productive they’re being in their work from home time and I think that those people will drive me nuts.

March 16

At the coffee shop, the day is bright and the sun streams through the windows. The door is open to promote air flow. There is hand sanitizer everywhere. I spin records but since no one can stay, I play my two favorites over and over. I’m happy to be here. I had been dreaming of leaving this job for something more lucrative, but now, this is a haven of normalcy and I’m clinging to it as long as I can, before it feels too dangerous.

I think of things I’d like to do later: go to another coffee shop, grab a beer, run to the store, visit the O’Keefe exhibit downtown. But I can’t do any of those things. I am not accustomed to staying put. I always want to be going somewhere.

My hands hurt. They are dry and bright red. Tonight I’ll slather them in coconut oil and put socks over them. I’m not wearing my rings anymore.

March 17

At the coffee shop I did not have a single conversation not about the virus. When there were no customers, I didn’t go five minutes without checking my phone to look it up. No one has remarked that it’s St. Patrick’s Day. 

I’m starting to wonder if I should refuse to go into work. 

March 18

Matt asked me how I was, and I spewed the catalogue of things that are weighing on me. The uncertainty, the contagion, the money problems, the isolation, the boredom, the fear of confronting parts of myself that will come out when there are no restaurants to go to. What if we have to go into full isolation, and I can’t be a barista anymore? Will I stay with my parents in Puyallup? My house of eight women in Seattle? Him? I’m so scared of being unemployed and cooped up.

I spend the day at the coffee shop daydreaming of getting away this weekend. I want to go to the Olympic National Park and camp for two nights. I want to get away and see beauty, but what I really want is to not wash my hands for a couple days.

At night I check my email—Puget Sound Energy is not charging late fees—and Facebook—Lacey Brown is recording songs and posting them for us—and then I go to Washington Trails Association to find a hike. Because outside will not be closed tomorrow. 

March 19

At 5:30 in the morning, the first thing I think when my alarm goes off is how stuck I feel. And then I remember that it is the first day of spring and my alarm has gone off this early because I was going to go on a hike. And so I get up and I go out to Index and I hike up to Heybrook Ridge. I sit on a rock because the wooden bench is frozen and slick, and I watch the sun come up and hit the snowy mountains and I wonder if I will see an avalanche. A rooster crows over and over again in the valley below.

I sit there for 40 minutes, and when I stand up to warm myself and head back down, I catch myself counting to 20.

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