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ThirdYear

thirdyear
Thomas Hart Benton: "America Today" Mural (detail), “Coal” (1930–31)


" … it sure is a good thing that The Muse and I relocated to overlooking The Center of the Universe …"

As the ThirdYear of Our Damned Pandemic began, its prolonged presence seemed to foreshorten our future. That April, our prior years' toodles around Paris and the French countryside seemed almost epic adventures dredged up from prehistoric times, times long past and unlikely to ever return, like an innocence forever lost, like coal once was. The Muse and I have so far dodged the Covid bullet, whether through early and frequent vaccination, obsessive masking, or dumb luck, nobody can say. Certainly people every bit as scrupulous as us fell prey and others who seemed scandalously pass
é stayed safe. Most recovered fully, but not all. A million people just in this country are absent today who wouldn't be gone had Covid-19 not come along. It remains, ebbing and surging, leveraging large number laws, quietly disappointing hopes and dreams.

The routine seemed perfectly sustainable at first, as any fresh experience might.
We had it better than most. At least we didn't live in a city then. We lived in more open country and could easily maintain adequate distances without having to rewrite our entire existences. Then after that first year, we relocated back here to a small city where we had history, but, of course, the city we'd fled had not greeted our return, for that city had gone the way of the Gooney Bird, as all cities must after more than a decade's absence. Still, the change of location suited us and we began refurbishing the old nest. That work distracted us through most of that first year back, Our Damned Pandemic's second.

As the ThirdYear of Our Damned Pandemic begins, though, time seems to have slowed down. Days last a very long time and nights even longer. Weekends still contain the shortest days of the week. Wednesdays seem interminable. We allowed ourselves a couple of outings as spread slowed. An actual movie in a very nearly empty theater. A dinner in a noisy bistro. Such diversions were once unremarkable, but seem incredible now, courageous or foolhardy, one of those. We even mustered a gathering, a supper and a conversation here in our home, and nobody seemed to come down with anything as a result. We don't know if we were wise or lucky, prudent or stupid. Pandemics seem designed to keep everyone wondering, or at least everyone who engages in wondering.

The most remarkable result this flood of persistent uncertainty Our Damned Pandemic has wrought must be the sudden certainties expressed by so many among us, particularly the Luddite anti-vaccination, anti-masking, utterly irrational segment of our population. Their reactions have been a master's class in studied deflection, the rough equivalent of a massive choir numbering perhaps forty percent of what we once recognized as us, plugging their ears and loudly proclaiming, "I know you are but what am I?", as if in vengeance for something unmentioned and, I guess, unmentionable. Just undifferentiated anger, apparently against themselves. Just so many noses sliced off to spite their own faces. The denial has been exponential. The disinformation channels have been steadily increasing their number of fans and I see no safety or end to any of it at hand. I've been waiting to submit my next Letter To The Editor letter to my local newspaper's editor until some responsible Republican has submitted one denying that armed insurrection represents a valid form of political engagement. Good thing I'm not holding my breath for that.

Our Damned Pandemic invoked sentences upon those most concerned and compliant, and those least fortunate. A man of my age should not be engaging in even casual denial of facts at hand. I cannot board an airplane or realistically think of international travel again. I can without restriction savor past experiences, but as the ThirdYear of Our Damned Pandemic opens, I cannot in good conscience continue considering myself a global citizen. I am a citizen in excellent standing of my living room instead. My domain extends clear out to the back fence and the considerable view shed beyond the fences both front and back. I can creep out to buy food, always wearing a mask and with my eyes averted, head down and rushing through it as if I might otherwise get infected. I'm always home. All I can say is that it sure is a good thing that The Muse and I relocated to overlooking The Center of the Universe, otherwise, the persistent separation might almost seem intolerable by now.

©2022 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved







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