Rendered Fat Content


Weegee (Arthur Fellig):
Audience Reaction (c. 1940 - c. 1950)

"I'll always continue wearing my mask."

Our continuing Damned Pandemic has utterly changed my relationship with this world. Previously unimaginable reactions to what certainly appeared to be clear and present dangers left me feeling extremely paranoid. I gratefully took to wearing my mask, baffled why some found the task onerous. Fresh definitions of freedom emerged: I, with my freedom to wear my mask in public, a great and reassuring liberty to me, and others, with their belligerent insistence to never wear one, whatever the personal or collective consequences. I saw self-centered cynicism run rampant, even among family members. I, myself, sequestered. I took respite behind firm defenses. My paltry social existence further withered. I essentially became a hermit.

I invited a few into my bubble, and a blesséd few accepted my offer.
I started a weekly Zoom chat where we talked about whatever seemed important at that moment, no agendas allowed. We became good friends, though most of us had never actually met face to face. I continued to write my daily missives. That audience continued reading. The Muse continued working until she retired. Then, she joined outside groups and attended many, many meetings while I held fort at home, ensuring some supper was waiting when she returned. She wore her mask, too, through rumors of setbacks and improvements. At first, our derelict President took the side of evil and downplayed the risks. The Muse and I were having none of that. His replacement proved a significant improvement, but even now, with most of the reporting having quite abruptly gone dark, we maintain our Damned Pandemic footing.

I do not believe for a second that we've seen the last of this Damned Pandemic. I accept that my life will very likely never flip back to the nonchalance it knew before. Regardless of how cheery the news from anybody's Center of Disease Control, I expect to remain wary. I learned, perhaps above all, how chaotic our reactions became through the early stages of This Damned Pandemic. I trusted most in my deep distrust that anyone else could reliably predict what might occur in my neighborhood. I would have to learn to care for myself, starting with caring enough to invest in high-quality masks and religiously wear mine. I refused to join the groups inviting me to join them for lunch, restaurants serving as the most reliable super spreaders even to this day. I've grown accustomed to long distances, arm's-length romances, video relationships, solo visits to grocery stores, primarily at off hours, to rarely, if ever, running into anyone besides store clerks who know me when we meet.

Publishing seems one way to extend my meager physical reach in this anonymous new world. Not extensively, but a tad beyond what's possible in person. Publishing encourages even longer-distance relationships than Zoom calls, for most of a Publishing audience remains anonymous by purpose and intent. Few ever bother to put pen to paper or finger to keyboard to explicitly appreciate an author. Instead, they absorb published content without engaging in anything like a mutual relationship, as if that distinction meant anything in the middle of even a more mild-mannered Damned Pandemic. I live on a desert island, separate from much of civilization. I would feel no more than an observer were I not focusing on Publishing my work. Acknowledging the difficulties, the impossibilities, Publishing now entails, I might reasonably be judged delusional for even attempting to broaden my work's distribution.

Perhaps I suffer from some side effects common to Damned Pandemics. I aspire for my reach to far exceed my physical grasp, my actual presence. I continue wearing my mask. I avoid restaurants like the plague carriers they are. I sometimes break some of my rules, but I'll always continue wearing my mask. From here, I cannot hear anybody calling the All Clear!

©2023 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

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