In response to the lists of gas prices you won't forget, and the bright idea to write a book with your idle panic time, here is the first installment of what I won't forget, my Coronavirus Diaries, which will be a book one day if anyone wants to keep reading. Coronavirus Diaries by Rochelle Brenner
In two weeks everything changed.
Early March, 2020
Multicultural festival. Folding tables set up in a crowded cafeteria, kids picking out which sample they want from an open tray. Everyone is eating from the same dish, sharing tastes. Brazil was the most popular with Coxinha. China ran out of food the fastest. Israel didn’t show up. It was the same day my brother’s flight from Israel to the United States was canceled, ending the possibility of his visit. It was my first personal impact of the coronavirus - the cancellation of an international flight. I resigned to not seeing my brother and his family for probably another year. Disappointing, but not earth shattering.
Still, I went to an arcade. I went to a mall. I went to the most popular restaurant/bar in the neighborhood. I went to a bowling alley with another arcade. I went to a kids party at a crowded house. I went to a friends house for a girls night. None of these were indulgent or particularly joyous, but how I now smirk at the memory. If you had told me then that I’d have to give up any of those things, I don’t think I would’ve cared, none were all that great. How naive I was, how comfortable I felt. How impetuous and overconfident. That such a normal day, should be and would be. That the days I planned are the days that will be. The formula I counted on was missing a figure.
I didn’t figure what would happen next and I don’t know if my future self, or my future family, will understand how the most hyper extreme hyperbolic fears became reality. March split into two. Before and after. And as I write this, it’s not over yet.
The thought of closing schools was foreign, closing my business- not even a chance. Didn’t plan for it and didn’t expect it until it was our last 12 hours. By the following week the thought of teaching karate in a building was laughable. No child or adult will walk through these doors for 2 weeks, 2 months, who knows? I'm the proud new owner of a startup online martial arts academy.
Supermarket workers hand out groceries in masks and gloves, with little or no understanding of how either works to protect them. Nothing is safe. Not walking, driving, waiting, or rushing.
I’m afraid of my own hands. I’m mortified for touching my own cheek. I regret every decision, every move that might have resulted in the coronavirus catching me or going through me. No one goes anywhere because there’s nowhere to go. Isolation isn’t social depravity, it’s now social consciousness.
The news is so superficial, so ragged, full of cliches and fake smiles and pleading for discord. It’s distasteful. A snapshot of nurses praying, but no context, no depth, no heart, soul or sweet God comforting what they see, saw and sought. Flat, low-lying words I could’ve figured out by walking out of my own home. Big numbers mean nothing to me. I’ve seen bigger numbers.
I know this is a crisis, but I don’t understand it. How dare you go to a playground, you insolent fool. You selfish rat! You took your kids for a bike ride. This is just what they’re saying publicly, who knows how disdainful the private lashings are.
My neighbors are telling on my other neighbors for crossing some invisible indivisible line.
The blaming, the politics, what a petty joke. As if any politician makes or breaks us right now. This is personal.
Where are the writers? Where are the storytellers? This is our time, tell the future world how we lived now. No one cares about the arcade days. These are the times that define us.
Wuhan means nothing to me. It’s a faraway village or a city or a kind of bat.
We debate what’s safer: picking up groceries or ordering them for delivery. Are they organic? No, we don’t think to ask that. The only question is: What are the chances that what I’m about to eat kills me or my family within the next two weeks? Everyone is living like they’re trying not to die.
How long will this last? It’s March 27. Nothing feels unsafe - I can’t hear, see, smell, touch, taste or feel anything different but the fear covers it all. I wasn’t afraid of the flu or a stomach bug.
I’m terrified now of touching a mailbox. If my hand were to barely glance a public bench I would recoil like I got bit by a snake. I am afraid of snakes.
This is how you show you’re polite - if you’re walking down the sidewalk and someone is walking toward you, you step into the street and avoid them like as if you’re on fire and don’t want them to catch a spark. How thoughtful.
Sacrifice now. Sacrifice your sanity, your well-being, your comfort. Or else you’re a murderer.
Don’t cough. Don’t whisper. Don’t sneeze. Let yourself go. Let yourself be unkempt, unhinged and unappreciated. Be satisfied with what you have. Seek nothing more.
How does one pause and break ambition, as a moral obligation no less. As a soaring gift to humanity, here’s my piece: I’ll do nothing, want nothing, seek nothing more and accept less. That’s what humanity wants now.
Who am I kidding? No I won't. I can't sleep without daydreaming. I'll write a book and show my kids the rainbows in the windows. I'll keep up with karate until I'm all punched out. And if the virus gets me, make sure my tombstone says "She's sweet but a psycho." Look what she wrote.