Pandemic Diary: June 8-July 13

June 8

On the way to the shop, I get stuck behind a school bus. It annoys me, until I realize this is the first school bus with flashing red lights I’ve seen in months.

At the coffee shop, I see a familiar line of three-year-olds emerging from the preschool next door. It has been closed too but not anymore.

After work, my coworkers and I set up the chairs and tables in our seating area. We are now allowed to have customers sit inside.

All of these things, combined with the sprawling long days of sunlight, make us feel hopeful.

After work, I run in the sun to South Lake Union and return via Ballard Avenue, the historic, hipster, foodie street I used to bring out of town visitors to make them fall for Seattle. The shops are still boarded up, but the plywood is all painted and the sidewalk is studded with people. They wear sundresses and shorts and sit at tables on the sidewalk, masks hanging off one ear, sipping beautiful nine-dollar cocktails. 

Again, hope.

June 10

Things millennials like me do during quarantine:

  • Bake sourdough
  • Plant gardens
  • Take up sewing
  • Make masks
  • Start podcasts
  • Blog

I wrote that to make fun of us, but upon consideration, I see that it’s a marvelous thing. We are confronted with uncertainty and suffering, and what do we do? Commit acts of creativity. For all our ugliness, we must be made in the image of God after all.

June 23

About three months to the day since I last slept in my own house, the house I pay for, I’m back. I’ve spent most nights in my childhood home or in my boss’s vacant Airbnb, all for free, but now it’s back to normal.

Matt said I should decide to return home based on statistics and safety and case numbers, but I don’t have the heart or head for them. It just reached a point where I didn’t feel right staying for free in my boss’s apartment anymore, and it had been so long since I’d been in my own twin bed.

I’ve spent less than half this year in my own house. I cook myself a meal and vacuum my bedroom floor and use my own bath towel and get under my own blanket, and between this familiarity and my coffee shop’s inching toward normalcy, I feel a bit more settled.

It’s getting hard to write about COVID-19. I’m not putting much in this journal anymore. Despite its official appellation, the coronavirus is not novel in the way it once was. Now, it’s that thing that is going on during the resurgence of the Black Lives Matter movement. It’s that thing that makes going to Olympic National Park complicated. It’s that thing that keeps me from seeing my grandpa every week for church. It’s that thing that Instagram ads tout as the reason I should buy myself a bra or a hot tub.

June 27

I go to the store to pick up ripe bananas and check, as always, for disinfecting wipes. To my surprise, there are three containers left on the normally empty bottom shelf. Customers can only purchase one, so I take one and pull the other two forward, so people can see them. 

On my way out, I notice the sign on the door: “Due to the coin shortage at the U.S. Mint, we are unable to sell change at this time.” 

July 13

Numbers are worse than they were in March, but we keep reopening businesses, which leads people (like me) to feel like things are okay, but they actually aren’t. The stats wash over me and I don’t know how to respond because I forget if we’re talking about 60,000 people dead, or sick, or only in Seattle, or the state, or the country, and I forget how that compares to Italy, and I don’t remember if we think Sweden sucks or not, and if Africa’s okay or just ignored, and I can’t reconcile my obsessive hand washing with my willingness to get a haircut and go on a vacation with my extended family next week. In a dizzying 30 seconds of scrolling on my phone, I see a headlines about someone who had it twice and therefore wasn’t immune, one about which hand sanitizers are toxic, and another about a vaccine that might be ready in November. I have just learned that the extra $600 of unemployment will end at the end of the month, precisely when our coffee shop’s loan ends and I’ll need to start collecting it. I was hoping I’d have that, so I could have an extra boost and move out of my busy house into a place where I could live alone and adopt my brother’s problem cat Benry, who apparently tried to sit on and kill their baby the other day.

Summer or no summer, I feel insecure today. And today is a bad day to feel insecure: I have a haircut in 40 minutes and I don’t have the balls to ask for the style I want.

I close the coffee shop and sit in the dark, drinking ice water and chanting whatever affirmations come to mind: “I can do this. I am edgy and cool. This is the haircut of champions. Some boys actually like pixie cuts. I will still look pretty if I wear eyeliner. I will look like Twiggy. I will turn heads. People will think I’m interesting if I do this. I can pull of all haircuts through Christ who strengthens me.”

Too soon, I’m in the chair and saying, “I want a pixie cut but I’m afraid I’ll look like I just had a breakup or became a nun.”

“No, you’ll look edgy and cool. Let’s do it,” says Jill, my trusted stylist who loves to cut my hair short but always keeps her own long.

And then she’s got a razor on my neck and it’s too late. Long strands float to the floor. She cuts a fringe and my new bangs fall over my eyes, veiling my sight.

“You’re so chill about this,” Jill says. 

“Yeah, well… it’s time for a change.” Haircut of champions, haircut of champions.

When my hair is gone and the adjacent stylists have adequately cooed over its cuteness, I wade through the clippings and pay, tipping well. I feel like a high roller in a little boy wig. 

When I walk out of the salon I feel fabulous. When I’m driving home I feel hideous. When I spend an old Red Robin gift card on dinner for Matt and me, I again feel like a high roller in a little boy wig. We eat on the beach at Lincoln Park and he insists that he likes it. I like how it feels to run my hand up the back of my neck.

I feel frustrated and unsafe about how the world is. But in the microcosm of my life, there is much to look forward to. My family is going to the San Juans next week. My baby niece is going to be baptized by my grandpa there. I will do what I can to give my brother’s cat a home. And I’m glad I cut my hair.

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