Turns out viruses elude classification. Much of modern science demoted them from living to nonliving, just packages of chemicals. Apparently they lack the metabolic mechanisms and cellular constituents required to qualify as life. Shit that I don’t really think about as I breathe and eat and walk. The thing about not quite being alive is that you can’t quite die, either. This makes me reserve a soft spot for viruses; we share confusion in our liminality.
Our email inboxes flood and we begin to use alcohol-based clear gels to annihilate tiny organisms that have clung to our skin for life. Each time we enter a space or begin eating. Each time a miniature massacre. The demand for such clear gels skyrockets and we are struck by how ridiculous it was that everything used to seem infinite.
A high school turns to the internet to host their education. Endearing absurdity unfolds. Softball club meets over a call. A 50-person choir attempts to sing in unison, sound waves bouncing from mouth to computer, getting tangled up and out of touch. Boys wearing swim caps dive into their beds. Everything is an anxious mockery. Teenagers laugh and spit in the face of the unknown.
Some of us have a set of features that suggest we might have originated from a specific portion of the planet. We have never been more aware of this. It, apparently, is cause for shut doors, hurled objects, and pointed words that we as a society have agreed to designate as hateful and taboo. Hearts are hardened and countenances maimed. There are bruises and blood. The virus has a subtler hand.
Giant aluminum cans holding packed people cease to cross the skies as regularly and frequently as they used to. For the first time in ten years, people are a little less in love with oil. So much of this species feeds on flux that confinement is making us bristle. Eventually burst.
For a situation apparently so deadly, life feels deceptively peaceful. The sun continues its warmth. We climb the roof anyway and marvel at the miracle of each other’s beauty. Our skin glows orange-gold and we sit eating grapes as smoke starts to rise around us. Meat being grilled. There is something romantic about the beginning of an apocalypse when it smells so delicious and everything is so still. We are all ghosts now. There is no clarity in this. Outside the bubble, life goes on.
But here. Parties shut down. Music stops. Mass dissemination of information ceases. The youth scramble for quieter ways to celebrate their youth. They have not yet learned how to do otherwise; how else are they to live meaningfully?
People in corporate cafeterias eat in a row instead of facing each other. We tap our feet together instead of shaking hands. Some part of us needs the contact anyway. The language of interaction is turned upside down. The buzzword is “social distancing”. It is exactly what it sounds like it is. Runs counter to our core. The director of our play holds rehearsal anyway, because what is the point of preserving life if we cannot do anything that makes it mean something?
Turn on the TV. Everything’s still fucked and that’s about it.
Entire worlds can be put on a virtual cloud now, so we’re left with the shadow of home, the pixellated image of loved ones, just enough to make us wistful but stripped of that tactile vitality we’re really searching for. Something you can grab onto and shake to test for truth. The solidity of physical presence. How words can reach and cut. Eye contact, real.
Everything used to seem infinite. There is such little to do without being with people. The whole thing is hilarious and tragic. The world is terrifying and all we have is each other. Which has always been true anyway.