The New Normal

A stroll down Main street at dusk on one of those glorious Summer Solstice Eves.
The sun refusing to go down, an overtired toddler fighting the pull of sleep.

It’s about 50/50, people wearing masks.

A flock of teens walk from the beach brushing sand from their foal long legs, not a care in the world, nothing covering their vaping mouths.
Denied prom and graduation. Heartbreaking voids to be never filled, they are defiant to enjoy this, at least.
There is no thought of Summer School or-hah- finding a job, just the promise of long days by the pool and punishing their parents for their existence.

Out front of the shuttered Walt’s Wharf, a busker strums on his capoed Taylor and sings a slow folk version of Bare Naked Ladies’ One Week.
I can barely make out the lyrics through his N95 respirator, and for that I am grateful.
Tip him two bucks.

We think back to those first days, the empty supermarket aisles and alarming news reports on the hour.
Zoom and TikTok, social distance and ventilator. Fauci.
A new language is learned.
Those White House briefings: real time musings from an idiot saying the kind of things we may have briefly thought of while brushing our teeth, but would never dare speak.

But now people are unable to park in their garage due to the stacks of Charmin Ultra Soft.
We switch off any mention of the Virus on the local news, watch a rerun of Real Housewives Atlanta instead. On commercial break, another syrupy advertisement comes on, reminds us the the heroes at Papa John’s are there for you.

Things are moving fast now.
Local councils lifting bans just ahead of the people storming the stores and restaurants, regardless.

We’re eating out again, masked like robbers til we are seated, reading wee menus off our own filthy smart phones.
Utensils are sealed in plastic, salt and pepper come in druggy little bindles.
Here comes the Chicken Marsala in its own sealed plastic bowl, quarantined apparently from side vegetables or even a bit of pasta. No offers of a Parmesan sprinkle, no red pepper flakes sit on the table.
But goddamn. Feels nice to be sitting in an actual restaurant, pretending things are quite fine.

I’d like to think we are ready for what’s next.
Perhaps we will no longer roll our eyes at the masked Japanese tourists on Melrose, the germaphobe wiping down his tray on the flight to Akron.
Perhaps we’ll all become responsible citizens of a new world, til we can get the old one back? Perhaps?


So I’ll leave this here, one last entry in these Covid diaries for the last couple months.
Because I guess we’re moving on, is that right?

I will miss the empty streets, the blessed pause we allowed the Earth to just take a breath, one not polluted by our human stink. The dolphins came closer to shore, the stars brighter in a sky unmasked by smog.
There were ugly accounts of mismanagement and system failure, sure.
But we pulled together in other ways, the curbside graduation ceremonies, the gems of human courtesy that only seem to sparkle in the darkness.
Racial injustice was called out with a heartening dedication, a disaster within a disaster that was not allowed to slide.

Hell, maybe this was the dress rehearsal for the real disaster, foreshadowed by the vertiginous second erections depicted in those 1918 Spanish Flu graphs we’ve all seen.
But this next time, we’ll be prepared, right?

And by prepared, I don’t mean going out there, piling toilet paper to the rafters and cornering the market in hand sanitizer and sourdough starter.

Maybe we do this again, prepared with grace.

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