I spent part of today arguing with my friend about the definitions of the words “quarantine” and “shelter in place.” I also lifted, though with less enthusiasm. I took my first walk for exercise, and called my grandmother while out. I saw a very old woman waiting for the bus and thought, “You tryin to die, bitch?”
It’s looking like some version of this is going to be the new normal for a long time. At least three months. Maybe a year or more. I’m still having people over and going over to their houses. Maybe that’s irresponsible. My new lover mentioned to me tonight that people we know are going to die. It’s so obvious, yet it hadn’t really occurred to me. Or, at least it hadn’t yet really hit me. I mean of course I worry about my grandparents. And my parents to a lesser extent. But young-ish people, people my age and younger, are also dying. I read a story about a man in China who had to pull his 30-something wife off life support because they were out of money. It’s a thought too terrible to really prepare for. I don’t know what to do with that information. Call all my friends and tell them I love them? I’m sure I’ll wish I had. But it doesn’t feel right to do so. It feels right to take precautions but also keep mostly living as if this is all going to blow over. That’s the headspace I have to maintain.
One thing I keep wrestling with is that this pandemic changes the risk profile of so many actions. Normally the risk of harm to myself or others of, say, deciding to go to the grocery store is known and low. It’s an activity I can be reasonably sure poses no or very low risk to myself and those around me.
In a pandemic, all bets are off. The risk is unknown, and potentially quite high. It gnaws on me. Am I killing people by hanging out with my friends, even if we’re doing it in twos and otherwise sheltering in place? Probably. A case could be made, though hard to prove without some MOTHERFREAKING TESTS. Ahem.
I keep thinking about this party an acquaintance of mine organized two weekends ago. Most people were canceling most events, as far as I could tell. I definitely lifted an eyebrow at his choice to soldier on and hold the party. He’s since posted to Facebook that someone at his party tested positive for COVID-19. And of course part of me is like, of course that’s what happened.
I’m genuinely conflicted about his moral responsibility in this situation. Certainly someone is likely to die from his decision. Probably not the infected person, since they’re presumably young. More likely they will have infected a few older people or people who will infect older people in the time between them becoming contagious and getting tested and hopefully quarantined.
But then, is everyone who doesn’t do absolutely everything in their power to stop spreading COVID-19 fully morally culpable for any resulting deaths? Should I just kill myself now to avoid becoming a vector? What if I’m already a vector? I mean, clearly there’s some line somewhere but I don’t know where. I don’t want a reality in which no one tolerates any risk. What if we all just stayed in social isolation for decades unnecessarily because no one wanted to risk having breaking it and causing deaths on their conscience?
For the most part, people are too risk-averse. How ironic and tragic that people feel so bold now, when the gains are so low and the risks are so high.
I think people aren’t taking this seriously enough for a lot of reasons, but among them is that I think grappling with how horrible this will be is too much. It’s too horrific and painful and crippling. We cannot simultaneously get up, get our clothes on, and work at our computers while at the same time seriously and genuinely contemplating some of our friends dying.
Even now, writing this, I live in hope that I’m being pessimistic. I hope none of my friends or family dies. I feel, at this moment, strangely at peace with the prospect of dying myself. I would rather not, by a lot. But I’ve had a baller-ass life. I hope (if COVID-19 takes me) that someone logs into my computers, gathers up all my writings, public and private, and publishes everything. If you could like organize it and clean it up a little that’d be awesome but I just mostly want it public so people can read it if they want. I had some good ideas. A lot of bad ones. But some good ones too. And they all could be a little interesting, if not helpful, I hope, to someone. If there were a mix-up that could be slightly awkward so maybe wait a few days to make sure I’m really gone.
Morbid thoughts aside, I’m still having an awesome social isolation overall. Still more productive than at the office. Still falling ever more madly in love. Connecting with new people via video chat. It’ll be interesting to see what happens. I love you all. <3
Thank you, Cathy.
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