On Friday morning, I set up a Zoom call with my friends Louise, Jessica and Sarah. That's them (or is it they?) up there in that photo, except for Sarah. She was probably somewhere near when the photo was taken, talking, probably, or making someone laugh. I can't remember where it was taken, but it must have been in 1985 or shortly after we graduated from college. I coordinated the Zoom call to accommodate three different time zones, the earliest being mine on the left coast and the latest being Sarah's somewhere in France. So we gathered in our little boxes and smiled at each other and laughed and caught one another up on our children, thirteen between the four of us, close to the age we were in that photo, most of whom are already out of college or in college or soon to be in college. Thirty-five years and thousands of miles make no difference. I feel connected in every cell to these women, and the pandemic and all its despair and loneliness melt away for the couple of hours we spent together. It's always with yearning that I leave these meetings and a sad reluctance to separate, the sad little button you click, LEAVE THIS MEETING.
What does it mean -- essential? Pandemic words.
Each morning, Chris sends a brief note of what she's grateful for, and I am at once irritated (the tyranny of gratitude) and buoyed. My sisters and I share strange humor back and forth back and forth our lifetime together. Leslie, Kari and I text one another almost daily with snippets of poetry. The death of a mother and a father, the illness of a spouse, the ongoingness of caregiving are met with words of love or a well-placed fuck and hearts and check marks, these little messages and connections and it doesn't seem possible to be shored up but it is and we are. Tanya posts pictures of flowers and plants from her walks, sketches everyday objects on her kitchen island, talks on the phone in her lilting voice and we are both reassured. Debra texts each evening: Feeling the evening covidy feeling, and I know exactly what she means. And the silence from others says everything, essentially.
These friendships are essential. Touch is essential and full body hugs are essential.
I'm not faint of heart.
Henry said tonight that maybe it wouldn't be so bad to die after all, but I didn't say that I'd thought it myself. I said some kind of mumbo jumbo about doing good, being kind and helping people out since we appeared to be doomed in these disunited States. I said something sarcastic. I am being taken advantage of, after all, by persons who've betrayed me. Insults and injuries. I cling to that, aware of the danger. A burning bush, not yet consumed. We had read an article in The Atlantic earlier in the day that set the tone. It didn't tell us anything different than we already knew, but it was written so clearly and concisely. Terrible America.
Anger veers into dullness eventually and reveals sorrow deep and wide where I guess we tread for a bit, tread water, our feet making walking motions and hands a downward circle. I can do it, maybe forever and maybe not.