Editor’s Note: This story was originally written on April 27, numbers of COVID-19 cases in the area have continued to change. Up to date numbers can be found here.
Memory is a fickle vice to hold so dear in the season of quarantine. Spring has been stolen from us. I remember the snow only faintly now, each passing year toting with it briefer frosts. I remember seeing my friends, but now I just hear their voices over Discord calls.
I began my isolation from the COVID-19 pandemic thinking only of deterioration. I worried at the time that I’d lose my job (I’ve been steadily working online this whole time, thankfully), worried that my partner and I wouldn’t have been able to move into our new apartment together, which was slotted for mid-April. We went on walks as much as possible, and until moving day, hadn’t touched one another in nearly a month. It was the worst. The only member of my family I’ve regularly seen is my dad, who has dropped off groceries on my doorstep off and on.
I haven’t been in a grocery store since early March. I’m somewhat good at stocking up on essentials and non-perishables, rationing my food out so I didn’t have to go out, so I didn’t have to ask a loved one to venture out, either.
The two times I walked to the 7-Eleven down the street were not necessary in the slightest. I bought Cool Ranch Doritos, moscato, a Midnight Dark Milky Way, and some Peace Teas. I say this excursion into the quiet world was unnecessary, but really, I just needed to eat something… special. For my mental well-being. It was uncanny how refreshing it was, to eat junk food, get wine drunk, and laugh at terrible horror movies via Netflix Party with friends.
As a distance learning student, I haven’t had to fret about the transition to online learning. I’ve taken my fair share of online courses in the past before this point, but if I didn’t have that prior experience when quarantine hit, I can only imagine my motivation would’ve dwindled fast.
Even now, with only a couple weeks left of our semester as of my writing this, the productive streak I held has petered out. I have enough mental energy to do my class work, but that’s where most of my energy goes (aside from gradually unpacking boxes in the new apartment). I was writing, reading, and watching aplenty when I was initially sent home. For three weeks, as confirmed cases grew in Michigan, my word count was benefitting from all my extra time. I’ve even gotten some poems and an essay published in a few literary journals, which were bright little bursts of delight in an otherwise dour atmosphere.
I don’t want to brag; I really don’t mean to. That’s not the point. It’s not something people need to hear, that I’ve been making do just fine, more or less. Worrying about others weighs me down more than worrying about my own situation. I worry most about my partner, who is basically running a local eye care office by themselves as the sole optician. They’re essential, but with that comes the excess stress of being out in public, dealing with the public—especially those who neglect social distancing and refusing to wear face masks.
Since we’re not native to the Superior area, we deal with the added stress of living in Michigan, a state where the virus has struck hard. We recently surpassed 30,000 cases just in the state alone, encroaching on 40,000. Most of these confirmed cases are regional to the downstate area, but here in northern Michigan where I’m from, there are only nineteen cases in my county so far.
As a person accustomed to long bouts of being left alone, isolation challenges the extent of my love for time to myself. I’ve been playing Dungeons & Dragons twice a week—which is an uncanny frequency considering how difficult it was to align player’s schedules in the before-times. Roleplaying has been the best escape for me (aside from reading loads of Kurt Vonnegut), which is to say I’m escaping to a world where coronavirus doesn’t pervade, which is to say I’m avoiding acknowledging how immensely affected a state the world is currently in.
To be honest, I am being evasive. I practically never check Facebook, and it wasn’t until writing this article that I’ve checked the total number of confirmed cases in Michigan. At first, I was staying up-to-date on reading the news, devouring articles aimed toward precautionary measures, and trying to comfort others, to make them laugh. I’m at the point where I just need to make myself laugh, to make sure my partner is safe, and to feed my cats.
I have a friend who’s been keeping a blog since his first day in quarantine detailing what he does every day, how he’s been coping, and what music and movies he’s been indulging in. I’ve read every single post—but now I’ve started to skim them, for lack of concentration. Mostly, I just want to read good news in his posts. Mostly, I just want to see my friends and embrace them. Mostly, I’ve forgotten what it means to truly interact with someone in person. Mostly, I just want to be me again. Without others to see me, am I even really here?