It has been almost three weeks now since offices shut down, schools closed and shelter in place directives were declared to urge all county members to stay at home. This was also a time when within the duration of a few diurnal spins – the economy came to a sputtering free fall in one swift blow.
Life is going on, but we have quickly unlearned what it means to be human in the context of modern living. If you care for your community and city – stay away. Human touch is hazardous. Withdrawing from the community and staying at home has become the communal pact for survival.
The compromise dawned on us like the five stages of grief. First it was denial, then bargaining with the status quo, until we were at an acceptance of what we’ve lost. In the past, our personal places had always been a part of our daily mad rush to do things, but not really at the center stage of our existence. Over the last few days, they have become the entire universe of where we exist.
And with this , dawns a new awareness of the personal space around us.
I now know that the sixth tile in the flooring of my kitchen creaks when you step on it while leaning on the counter. And discover a nest with shrill croaks of invisible birds just outside my balcony that intensifies in the afternoons. I am aware of the harsh golden glare that sunset would bring on my favorite work spot in the living room, and I would have to take my work ( and laptop ) elsewhere as soon as the clock strikes 5.
I can now calculate that the ascending tempo of the whistling wind outside our cathedral ceilings is a prelude to a draft picking up. The kitchen windows would start rattling , so it’s time to close the patio.
The common wall of our townhome exposes us to filtered sounds from other personal spaces. I now know that my nameless, invisible neighbor gets agitated in the afternoons and plays Nirvana’s “Never-mind” on a nonstop loop until nightfall settles his ( or her? ) nerves. We joke – this grunge fan doesn’t seem to be taking social distancing too well.
The bookshelves have become the new muse – luring me with unfinished books which were waiting for an opportune time to be completed. I now look forward to Friday evenings as a way to context switch into a weekend when my home would magically switch from being a workplace to a place of leisure. Work and Life have congealed into one unified endless flatline.
The empty streets with weak signs of public life outside fill me with anxiety. Is it my imagination , or are the sirens of emergency vehicles becoming increasingly frequent over the last few days ?
On the very rare and essential scenarios when we step outside – I am now acutely wary of every cough , sneeze and sniffle around me. Every surface is analyzed for the possibility of carrying a deadly virus that would apprehend and wreak havoc on our lives. We innovate maneuvers to avoid touching doorknobs, crosswalk signs, shopping carts .. any bug smeared common surface at all costs. And then we come home and wash hands like the Macbeths.
Personal spaces have become inviolable bubbles – it is dangerous to step outside them. And yet, like a whiff of wind that suddenly blows in your face – they continue to surprise with new experiences.
This bubble is starting to grow on me. Ahem. well ..Who knew our personal spaces could be alive with such vibrant details now?