Rendered Fat Content


William Crozier: Rainbow's End (1965-70)
"I'm taking my mask and hand sanitizer along for reassurance."

In April 1952 in Asheboro, NC, John Phillips, an eighteen year old black man, was arrested on sexual assault charges. Sent to the state mental hospital, he was classified as a "moron" with the mind of a seven year-old child. His lawyer entered a guilty plea and a judge sentenced him to life imprisonment. By 1991, Philips had become the state's longest serving prisoner and his family and inmate rights' groups were lobbying for his release. Interviewed more recently in prison, Philips insisted, "I ain't going nowhere. Too many fools out there." He had become that rarest of rare exceptions, a prisoner who refused his own freedom. I relate to him this morning.

Today's the day I've waited for since fourteen months ago when I first entered sequestration from This Damned Pandemic.
I felt as though I'd breezed through that first week or two but then it became clear that I'd be going nowhere until someone developed and distributed an effective vaccine. Best bets then speculated that this might take two or more years. I amended my expectations and began solidifying certain rituals. I learned how to download audio books rather than physically visit my beloved library. I drank my coffee alone. I shopped like a contestant on Supermarket Sweep, almost frantically, in and back out in a flash or less. We never even thought about going out for dinner. In exile at the time, we had few to visit and neither they nor us were accepting visitors. The Muse's periodic gatherings of visiting scientists ceased. I catered no suppers. We pared down our allowed destinations, each of which strictly observed pandemic protocols. I never left the house without a mask tied around my neck. I became a virtual hermit.

Today, though, I'm informed that I can forego many of those now-ingrained protocols and I strongly relate to poor old John Philips who'd learned how to live as the prisoner he'd become and felt no strong attraction to so-called liberation. I know how to live under sequestration. The rules, once onerous, seem simple now, still somehow necessary. We've moved far away from that once-beloved library. The coffee shop I occasionally wrote in left behind, I'm uncertain if I want to find a replacement. I've so long vilified the protocol deniers that I hesitate to again mingle in the general population where they still circulate spewing poison. As Philips insisted, "Too many fools out there!" My esteem for my fellow man has taken a beating. My sense of innocent acceptance of difference seems tattered through repeated exposure to reality-deniers' stories. I feel safer still sheltering in place.

In hostage situations, The Stockholm Syndrome remains a real danger. After a surprisingly short time, a hostage might begin relating to their captors more than to their freedom, and refuse release if offered. A similar set of symptoms seems to have overtaken me through my sequestration, resulting in me exhibiting a so-called Staying@HomeSyndrome. I feel as though I need to watch a couple of dozen old John Wayne movies to remember how a man's supposed to enter a tavern. I've utterly forgotten how to eat in a public restaurant and I'm deeply uncertain if I want to remember. I carry my hand sanitizer like some carry rosary beads. I even mumble reverent incantations whenever I use it, which might always remain frequently, whenever leaving any public space. I never really cared for concerts, packed into steerage seats with deafening beats never seemed communal to me. Movies always held me prisoner. I wore ear plugs when coerced into attending. Maybe I always was more of a loner.

I will, however, knock on a few doors, though I'll feel like the eight year old greeting card salesman I once was when I show up there. I'll be wondering how I should be greeting whoever answers, dead certain that I'll be viewed as an unwelcome interruption. Maybe we're all accustomed to sequestration now and have chosen to avoid our neighbors. We are the survivors but we're not unchanged by our common experience. E Pluribus Unum hardly describes our E Unum Pluribus relationships now. If we ever were one, we're many now, suspicious of our neighbors and almost accustomed to relating long distance via Zoom and FaceTime. I've adapted before, though I suspect that I'm destined to become some analogue of my grandparents, scarred by their too close association with The Great Depression's privation and rendered unable to throw away tin foil or empty cottage cheese containers. I expect my Staying@HomeSyndrome to continue ad infinitum, though The Muse and I are heading off to visit my son and our grandchildren this weekend. I'm taking my mask and hand sanitizer along for reassurance.

©2021 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

blog comments powered by Disqus

Made in RapidWeaver