musings from month 11 of purgatory
The other day I was in an Uber with my roommate when it got a flat tire and he let us out in between the highway and the Orthodox neighborhood. Michelle and I stood on the corner in front of the barbed wire clad kitchen supply warehouse (I’ll get back to this never) and called another Uber. As I stood on the corner I thought about how much safer I felt having a friend with me vs. being alone. I thought about how uncomfortable I would have felt in a deserted area alone at night. But then I thought, if someone was going to God forbid come and attack me, having one other person there wouldn’t exactly be a game changer. Sure maybe we could tag team and fight or one of us could call an ambulance for the other guy but in reality, two young women outside alone by the highway is usually the beginning of Dateline.
I’ve been thinking a lot about commiseration. If you’re going through something bad, and you have a comrade with you, does that make the bad thing better? Or are you just glad to have someone in your corner? It doesn’t make me feel better that everyone is having a shit time. I want me and all my friends to be happy. And even my not friends. I want everyone to have everything they want and be with people they love and eat what they want to eat without it giving them gas. Call me Karl Marx but I think people should be able to have what they need to survive, and thrive, and live. I think when you’re born the government should give you $200 for passing go and a Sham-Wow because life is messy.
It’s month 11 of a panhandle and sometimes I don’t know where to turn. Usually when I talk to people about how stagnant I feel or how antsy I am, they respond by telling me that everyone feels this way, as if I’m supposed to take solace in being part of this club. I do think there’s value in collective grief, Judaism is basically founded on it, and it’s better to be sad in a group most of the time. But if you’re standing on the deck of the Titanic, sure you’re glad you’re not alone, but wouldn’t you rather that the whole ship and all your friends on it were enjoying the soft serve machine and the curly water slide?
When Michelle and I were stranded for a few minutes, I was glad to not be alone. But I would have rather that the car never got a flat tire in the first place. Just getting through the day, just surviving, should be the bare minimum, not the goal. That’s like finishing a dinner service and saying well, I hope nobody dies from the calamari. But does it taste good?
I took for granted living beyond just surviving. This pancreas, for those lucky enough to live through it, has taken away the background noise of life. We Facetime our close friends and family, we go to the grocery store and the laundromat, we cover the essentials, but we can’t wander. There is no space for non-essentials. We can’t justify hanging around just for no reason. Everything needs a purpose or else you’re not being cautious enough. And I agree, now is not the time to do unnecessary things for fun, because it could mean risking someone’s life. But what a sad thing to have to pull away from the fringes of life. As an aspiring writer I live for tiny moments. Not at work, but on my way to work. Not what they said during the play but what the fighting couple in Times Square said before curtain. I want to witness someone breakup immediately after eating Guy Fieri’s Trash Can Nachos.
When I walk to work through the Orthodox neighborhood, and see all of them unmasked, I wonder if I made the wrong choice. (This is me imagining that at birth you get assigned a sect of Judaism from the sorting hat from Harry Potter.) I am not jealous of their pancreas protocol but walking through there is a time machine back to a year ago. When I took my 8 children to the grocery store in my velvet skirt. Just kidding, it reminds me of community. Larger, staggered communities, with layers and levels and acquaintances.
The panorama has done away with acquaintances. I can no longer get coffee with a friend of a brother of a friend because if I am going to hang out with you, outside, in the freezing cold, for an extended chat, it must mean I really like you. Gone are the days of small talk after the open mic with young aspiring funny people. I never thought I’d miss that shit, but it’s all I think about. The awkwardness, the bumping into people, the stumbling, the getting your jacket stuck in the subway door then getting shoved in by a strong gust of wind and almost kissing a random elbow. Now when I ride the subway everyone is wearing a mask, which means gone are the days where I could have a random fleeting kiss with a stranger on the M train. I never did that but at least back then it was always a possibility.
So today was a whole bunch of negativity but what can I say, I watched the Fran Lebowitz documentary and I feel curmudgeonly. For now, my acquaintances are house plants. I’ve been giving them vaguely false directions to Herald Square and flipping them off randomly to brush up on my New York dialogue in preparation for the return of life. Happy Thursday my friends, and remember, don’t let anyone tell you what to do unless they are strapping you into a rollercoaster.