We’ve been through a staggering crisis, a global Pandemic, and I don’t think any of us will ever be the same. Life is divided into BC (before Covid,) and AC (after Covid) and almost everything has
In March, 2020, when the virus started rearing its ugly head, I got an appointment at Dodger Stadium on the first day the vaccine was available. Ed, a friend of a friend, drove himself and me there, we didn’t know each other, and it felt unreal as we fed into a line of cars
that was miles long. Literally. We inched along for six hours wearing masks, something we weren’t accustomed to doing. In fact, I never saw Ed’s face and he never saw mine.
We’d been told to drink a lot of water before we got the shot and I had some in the car, but when I saw that were no bathrooms for miles, I decided not to drink any more. About three hours in, I realized that we were stuck in that line, that there was no way to get
out and no way to know how long we’d be there. My breath got shallow as Ed turned to stare at me. Panic was showing in my eyes. “Do I need to call someone to pick you up?” he asked me kindly. I shook my head and did my best to calm down. There were just so many questions without answers. Was the vaccine safe? Would
it really work? Was there enough to go around? Since so many people had been on ventilators and had died, most of us wanted the vaccine, but we were also afraid of it.
After four hours, we finally made it into the parking lot of the stadium where it was complete pandemonium. There were rows upon rows of switchbacks, we rode back and forth for two more hours but at least there were porta-potties. Ed and I had appointments at 4 PM and 4:15 PM so when we pulled into the tent at 9:30 PM, we were afraid they had run out. They hadn’t, but they had run out of cards that confirmed that we’d been vaccinated. After the injection, we were supposed to wait for fifteen minutes in case there were any side effects, but while we were still rolling down our sleeves, they motioned for us to move along. Too many cars, too many people,
too late in the evening.
The next morning, I was nursing a sore arm when I learned that 7,730 of us had received injections at Dodger Stadium the day before. I went back there with Ed for vaccine #2. I had tried to get it somewhere else, but they told me I had to return to my original
provider. This time the wait was “only” two and a half hours and again, we wore masks the whole time. A year or so later, Ed and I saw each other’s faces for the first time at a small gathering of vaccinated people.
When the quarantine began to loosen up, we were glad to get out of our homes but many of us had developed floating anxiety that we couldn’t name as we re-entered the world. It’s still around. There
have been so many times I’ve felt off balance and I had moments of hypochondria, unusual for me. I told a friend I thought I had Covid every day for five minutes and people’s behavior was erratic. “It’s my personal choice not to wear a mask,” some of them said. That may be true for shooting heroin or having unprotected sex, but when a virus is airborne, it affects everyone like second hand smoke, and
wearing a mask under your chin or your nose or not at all does nothing to protect you or anyone else.
Eventually we got the word that masks were no longer mandatory but people who were five times vaccinated were still getting it. We had a whole new set of questions: Crowds or only small gatherings? Masks or no masks? Hugging or not hugging? If we get it, will it do
permanent damage? As I re-enter the world, I’ve come up against a phenomenon called “mask shaming.” Several times, I’ve been the only person in a crowded room wearing a mask and people have glared at me. I once got called out verbally for protecting myself by a woman who’d had Covid twice.
Rejoining life is complicated. Our work methods have changed and they most likely won’t go back to the way they were. For me personally, I was concerned with losing intimacy in my writing classes but if I wanted to continue, I had to take them on Zoom. It worked out well and now I have students in different states and across the globe which has had made my work more interesting and rewarding. I consider myself lucky that during the Pandemic, I had my writing to manage my anxiety and I still do. Michelangelo said, “It is well with me only when I have a chisel in my hand.”
As I venture out of my home and rejoin the comings and goings of daily life, I’m reminded of the ten trips to the Philippines I took during the eighties to research the faith healers. I stayed for weeks and each time I got home, it felt like I had one foot in the East and one in the West and it took a while to get both feet under me and feel
whole again. Today, it feels like I’m straddling life again with one foot in quarantine, the other in the world at large, trying to move forward without tripping over myself. And as usual, the answer is to give myself a break, to be patient, and to treasure my friendships that help me feel connected. I need to remember what we all just went through, to be compassionate and to take the time to lay low and heal so I can slowly but surely become whole again.
I wore my mask at the beauty parlor recently. I asked my stylist to wear hers as well. She balked and said it would ruin her makeup for the rest of the day. I persisted and she finally caved in and wore a mask. And so it goes these days.