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Max Klinger: The Release of Prometheus (late 19th–early 20th century)
"I wonder who I will have turned out to be after I lift my veil."

Thirteen months ago this week, I half-heartedly decided to lock myself down for the recommended two weeks as my patriotic contribution to combating The Damned Pandemic. I figured, if unenthusiastically, that it might be the least I could do and still feel as though I'd contributed to the betterment of humanity. I would not be performing any heroic open heart surgeries or volunteering to scrub ventilators in any hospital, and it would only be for a fortnight, just long enough to break the thread of infection, then we'd be back to normal. Thirteen months later, I'm still sequestering, which means I stay mostly at home, going out only when absolutely necessary or to take a sanity-promoting drive to nowhere. I've become quite the hermit since, each week extending my original two week commitment to contribute my little bit toward the continuation of our society. This might well prove to be my LastWeek under such quarantine.

I say "might well prove to be my LastWeek" because I hold the same level of certainty about the ready cessation of these hostilities as I unknowingly held thirteen months ago.
I can foresee about two weeks ahead, but The Muse and I are still planning on seeing grandkids and my son, and my daughter's surviving husband as soon as possible. It's been a year and a half since we last crossed paths other than via GrumpaTV, email, or telephone. We're way past due. We won't yet be hopping any airplanes or eating out in restaurants. We'll continue wearing masks in public, since the latest studies strongly suggest without overtly promising anything less than 'limited risk' this long after vaccination, we'll still hold some risk of spreading if not very likely contracting. One week from today, we'll be safer if not entirely safe and we'll shortly thereafter head out to harvest long overdue hugs and some blessed proximity. Friends and family closer to our new home will find us knocking on their doors, collecting hugs for ourselves, prominent victims of This Damned Pandemic. We'll be like the March of Dimes but The March of Mimes, instead, breaking an overlong silence.

I feel as out of practice socializing as Rip Van Winkle himself must have felt after his quarter century's nap. I'll remain incognito beneath my face covering, but I will at least attempt a presence. I will show up. I will, I swear, administer a hug, and not a superficial so-called bro-hug. Nothing one-armed and distanced. I intend to hug as if taking that first breath of air after almost becoming a drowning victim. I've been feeling just that close to exploding. I recognize just how fragile and possibly short-lived this impending respite might become. With a new and much more contagious variant making more than threatening waves, any day could see another call for just another two weeks of forbearance before even partially opening back up again, and I already know what an initial two week commitment might become, so we'll be slipping through the perimeter fence to collect all the proximity we can get. Just in case. We're learning that one never knows. Let this notice be fair warning.

We will have joined a club, one we had no prior desire of ever joining. We'll have cohorts, others who've passed the three week post second shot threshold, and we can choose to actually socialize. We might even share suppers, still cautious and careful, and recall old times together, attempting to create fresh memories, a recent impossible dream. Sequestration became at best a half-living, a life so squelched barely half the signal reproduced. I offer no excuses or apologies. I held no advanced degree in anything I attempted there. My rules seemed well-informed, but they might just as well have been pulled out of emaciated air. Others interpreted their responsibilities differently. Neighbors continued sending their kids to school. The kid gangs continued to congregate as before and it some days seemed as if I might have been the only one holding firing line discipline. This was not a liberating feeling. It might be that my whole regime amounted to clapping my hands to ward off rampaging elephants when there never were any elephants around. My clapping sure seemed causative, though, and since I saw no elephants about, I needn't have ever had any doubt about my strategy's efficacy.

It will take me some time to reintegrate back into even begrudgingly polite society. I've grown suspicious of my fellows. That unmasked couple, seemingly blithely strolling through the supermarket earlier this week, seemed like terrorists to me and I reacted viscerally. Used to be that self-respecting terrorists wore masks in public. No longer! They represented a threat and though I was wearing my mask and unlikely to become infected, I knew that I inhabited a minority of the population. Most they passed remained vulnerable to their thoughtless presence. Perhaps they suffered medical conditions which rendered them unable to wear masks. If so, why weren't they just home, responsibly sequestering? I fear most accusations of such thoughtlessness, public presumptions of cluelessnesses. I wear my mask in defense and I foresee no future present when I won't be wearing one in public, but I do project a time when I might once again dispense hugs and inhabit others' orbits. As I said when I started, this "might well prove to be my Last Week" in such cruel isolation. I wonder who I will have turned out to be after I lift my veil.

©2021 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

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