The streets are empty. I’m shuffling through my pockets in search of a cigarette. Then I remember that I quit years ago. I couldn’t tell you when. One day it just happened, like most things last decade.
I grab my phone instead and just hold it tightly in my hand.
It’s 7 am and I’m all geared up for the grocery store. I took the stairs inhaling purposely in between flights then holding onto the air so I could exhale when walking past the doors. Last summer I remember yelling at my little brother with OCD telling him it was useless to count his steps and breaths.
When I get back I’ll leave the bags outside my apartment while I go back to sleep. Then after six hours I’ll start by taking in the produce and tonight I’ll bring in the plastic containers. I never buy meat anymore. That just started to happen, like most things last decade.
The city is lifeless but I can still spot a few people. I bifurcate onto the avenue to make sure I don’t cross anyone on the sidewalk. I’m not the only one who thought about going out this early. I eye the store from a yard away still clutching my phone. I’ll wait for the right moment to walk in. On my instagram a meme of a woman from the roaring twenties is drinking champagne over a surgical mask. I stay stuck on the image while it loops a few times. I have no idea when I actually created my account. One day it just happened, like most things last decade.
Twenty twenty took me by storm. I’ve been so busy living in the moment. Someone tagged me in a throwback from April 2018. I’m not sure where it was taken. I don’t like that I’m slouching. I switch apps and check my email. I filter through the spam and there’s not much left. The newsletter of a charity I donated to in support of medical workers asks, “HOW DID WE GET HERE ?” When I open it I’m struck by an accelerated slide show shot up close of newly orphaned African American children. I immediately side click and my screen goes dark. I’ll make sure to send in another contribution later on today.
I take a few steps towards the sunny side of the street. I don’t know why I’ve been standing in the shade. It’s been unseasonably warm, insanely so. I take a wide stance and focus on my naval like they taught me in meditation class. A woman is leaving, struggling with her five full bags. I turn away and look towards the sky. She’s not wearing a protective mask. When she’s far enough I may go into the store.
Drowsy, I look around at the city like a mirage. The sidewalk is shimmering audaciously behind the trees in full bloom. During the split moments when my vision reaches focus, I’m forced to acknowledge all the wandering shadows frightfully exposed on the bare roads. The further I see, the more numerous they are, the last occupiers of our communal spaces. In my early twenties I used to sit in parks and drink beers through brown paper bags, smoking joints behind my index finger and the palm of my hand. This guy named Ed used to hang out sometimes. He was homeless but claimed to have been roommates with Robert Mapplethorpe. I haven’t thought about that in years, he must have disappeared, like most things last decade.
Walking towards the store I pull up my shopping list. Only reminder on my calendar app for today. We had a fight because Alex wanted to order everything online. For two people who used to claim to be creative rebels were playing it incredibly safe. Through our hours of endless shared inactivity, we both got stuck on each side of the argument. Behind the grey kitchen counter Alex kept saying : “why would you put us in danger for fucking pesto?” I don’t know why I wrote pesto as the first item on my list. The truth is now I seem to always inherently know what I need to buy before ever really wanting it. That also began to happen, sometime last decade.
I’ve been watching so many cooking tutorials. I’m obsessed with the endless culinary possibilities that keep twirling through the reflection of my screen. This bossy Italian lady captivates me for hours. She’s not conventionally beautiful but very sexy. I did watch her making pesto and had to have a taste of that green gooey paste. I would have had to wait for days before the neatly packaged parcel delivered without any trace of human contact actually arrived.
Right outside the store entrance, I hear someone cough and stop cold. The word danger rings against the echo of that cough. The sense of an infinity of microbes begins to surround me. Even though I’m pretty young and have no respiratory problems, I blow out air and turn away. Pesto mission aborted. The sun-filled streets have taken on a metallic aspect. An invisible threat is now breathing down my neck. I’m pacing forward sometimes breaking into a run until I reach my building.
There’s a sentence my father used to say. Something about anxiously looking over our shoulder at the twentieth century —careful not to replicate the carnage. I wish I could remember the exact wording. Today, I’m still anxiously looking over my shoulder. I am entrenched in my home waiting for government orders. The carnage has taken on the aspect of a death count that flashes coldly through my phone. I have the irrepressible feeling that I’ve been absent for a while. That a multitude of small decisions were taken for me, outside of any volition of mine. Somehow they all just happened, like most things last decade.