Rendered Fat Content


Arthur Wesley Dow: Marsh Creek (c. 1905)

"The future sure seems lonely."

As we enter the third successive PlagueWinter, I find little evidence that I've fully incorporated any learning from the experience. I still pine and plan as if this disease were little more than a passing inconvenience rather than endemic, as it surely has become. I'm just starting to understand that this disease will most likely haunt my remaining days here, even if I live for decades. Gratefully, neither The Muse nor I have yet contracted this bug, though her son has been through three bouts of it and has been wrestling with long Covid symptoms for two years, since he started recovering from his first bout. A friend just finally tested negative after an eight day run with his second infection this season, and he took Paxlovid just as soon as he tested positive both times, and had just the week before received his latest booster. He said it was like having a bad cold. Of the ten people who attended his ukulele group, two apparently came already infected and six of the remaining eight tested positive the next day. Covid-19 remains alarmingly infectious, though apparently not nearly as deadly as it once was for many.

I've been dreaming of a 'normal' Christmas season, similar to the ones I used to know.
Now that we're back in our home, we'd envisioned entertaining, but we've only managed one evening which, in retrospect, might have been stretching it, even though we insisted upon people being vaccinated and we tried to respect some semblance of distance. We failed, though nobody reported coming down with anything following that evening. We were more lucky than clever. We had no dispensation from anybody or anything that might have reasonably protected any of our guests or even ourselves from contracting anything. Looking backwards, we were probably unwise.

I've taken to asking people if they're still wearing their mask in public and almost nobody says, "Yes!" Many admit that they probably should, but don't. We've clearly entered the complacent period, a phase viruses rely upon to continue storming through the gate. Our defenses were never much more than porous, with something like half of us never convinced that we could successfully defend against it. Perhaps they were correct. Quite a few coped by just becoming ever more cynical, insisting that they were in no personal danger. This valiant response resulted in a million and more dead in the first three years and we've probably just barely started writing the history of this pandemic. We have always been convinced of our invulnerability, regardless of evidence to the contrary. We need not feign surprise when we contract it or when we die, because we were so convinced that our demise would necessarily always be surprising. If not a thief in the night taking us, it's a thief who preys upon those who specialize in living with their eyes firmly closed.

So I have been promoting a house concert circa the Winter Solstice, just as if we might actually host such a gathering. Data from a month out casts considerable doubt on the wisdom of hosting such an event. We probably have another week before we really should call the notion delusional, even though The Muse shows signs of probably being adequately recovered from her cancer treatments by then, and we're both clearly showing signs of suffering from severe isolation. We're still among the few who never go out without our masks. Even then, we rarely go out anywhere. I'm still not allowing myself access to restaurants. I drive by my former favorite greasy spoon diner, salivating at the memory of smothered hash browns in the morning, but I never even slow down in hopes of catching a whiff of their aroma now. I know there's no way I'd willingly sit along that counter now. That's a memory from before that might just as well only exist in the past. The future sure seems lonely.

I have been telling myself that this plague will one day pass, though I doubt now that it ever will. I suspect that I will be wearing my mask like Spanish American War veterans used to wear lapel pins when I was a kid. They were relics, the only ones who remembered The Maine! as it was, and I see some similar fate now attached to me. I admit to taking some small pleasure at explaining to ignorant cowboys in pick-up trucks who never once felt vulnerable to anything, why I'm still wearing my mask. "Well," I begin, "when my wife completes her course of cancer treatment, perhaps I'll reconsider." A look as close to embarrassment as I suspect they ever get accompanies a furtive downward glance and a whispered, "Sorry." Plagues specialize in victimizing those who insist upon living with both eyes closed, and other innocents.

©2022 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

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