A week or two ago, my dad asked when I thought me and Dave might be able to get vaccinated; my brother had gotten an appointment as an essential worker, and he and my mom both already had their first shots. “I don’t know, like July?” I replied. People were being vaccinated in Arizona, sure. But I had little faith we would be eligible soon.
But how much has changed! The state opened eligibility to all adults 16 and over, all of a sudden, and now I have a Saturday appointment, and Dave is going in today. I have been walking around in a haze of emotion, laughing suddenly, crying quietly, bouncing up and down and shouting at Dave, “Vaccines! Vaccines!”
Vaccines have felt so far out of reach for us, I had not realized how much I had sublimated the desire, how much of the stress and fear of this past year has been pent up with the idea of getting our shots. Now I am thinking about last March and April, how I was sick to my stomach at the idea of not being able to buy any toilet paper, how I rushed to get my last library hold before they closed all the county branches (they’ve long since re-opened for hold pickups, but I didn’t know that would happen at the time), how I bought six bags of pantry staples one afternoon, coveting each onion and bag of farro, cherishing the bread flour and garlic.
I remember wondering if I would ever get used to the fear; for the past many months, I thought I had. I was sure I wasn’t afraid anymore, not really—I was still taking every precaution, but I could feel life’s continuity humming along beneath me, and I thought that meant I was fine.
Turns out, I am still a ball of nerves, I had just covered those nerves with a steel casing, which is now fragmenting off of me, bit by uneven bit. Who was I this year? What did I lose? What did I miss? These all feel like open questions. We have, by any metric, been lucky, our losses minimal. But telling myself that—”You are lucky, you are fine”—hasn’t actually erased the crawling chaos of the year. Certainly not from my clenched up muscles, my frayed calm. Probably not from yours either.
I’m curious what the next few months will look like, both for me and for the world. How will we look when our exoskeletons peel away, and reveal the tender flesh beneath? What will happen to our coping mechanisms, and to us, without them? I told a friend the other day, “It’s not that I’m depressed, it’s that it’s just so much easier if I lie alone on the floor and don’t talk to anyone,” which of course sounds pretty depressed, though I was sincere in what I was saying. It is easier. But it’s not better. Not all the time. We have had to get used to lying on the floor alone, and it is going to be scary to get up, but in time we will, and all this will seem…maybe not like a dream, but, appropriately, like the past.
Meanwhile, I will continue to take three different photographs, minimum, of every ranunculus bloom in my garden, every day, as proof of life. My life, their life, life in general. It may be excessive, but it helps.