The Fabric of Us

I am writing. I keep writing. But only in bits. Snippets. Short spurts.

I read over what I’ve written. I exhale. Is this something? Is it anything? How would I know?

My hands are busy, my body always active, anxious, and my mind? Adrift, staring up at the sky on a raft far from land. Sounds, images, scents, sift up:

A sigh – our radiator stirring like a great beast in its sleep: first a wheezing inhale then the repetitive clang announcing heat.

Constant sirens – soft then strong, insistent. Receding to the back of consciousness, but still present. My ears track their progress on a Doppler arc – is it our block? No, not tonight; sleep. Or try to.

The daily ritual of Vitamin C on our tongues – a sacrament, a talisman against infection, a comfort.

The endless ritual of washing – masks, hands, everything that comes through the door. Fascinating how vulnerable the print on food packaging is to rubbing alcohol. Ink staining the palms of my hands.

Rubbing alcohol – once the childhood smell of fear (a shot!), now the smell of safety, reassurance.

The first thing I notice about anyone on the street is whether or not they’re wearing a mask. For many in the West, a mask has not quite shifted from the look of threat (what are you hiding?) to the look of protection. Jokes about bank heists.

Avoidance, physical distance, as a mark of courtesy, deference, care.

Every day an exhausting tunnel of work. The guilt of having work.

In the city we are suffocatingly close to our neighbors but somehow more visible to each other now, our daily routines exposed through windows because we’re Always Home. I’m wearing shorts, a tank with no bra, and the curtains are open. Normally I would shy from the frame, but these days I think “Let in the light. Let them see.” We are all seeing more of each other, though our faces are masked. Also less, as struggles are kept from the phone camera lens and anguish vows to be silent, stoic.

Sitting in front of my laptop I can’t help but think of a cockpit. I plug in, all wires and earbuds. I curl into the cramped space to pilot around a world that feels entirely virtual. The physical world drops away. The virtual is where the ‘real’, the in-person happens – it’s the only place we connect without barriers, protocols. It’s escape, touch where there is no touching, emotion, sharing, checking on each other. We have dance parties here and it feels like we’re dancing together. We’re in the same room because there is the same music and we can play – share moves and expressions – and in this landscape of distant islands, that feels like a miracle: There you are! Here I am! It’s signal flares and messages in bottles; it’s Griffin & Sabine; it’s letters by carrier pigeon; it’s smoke signals; it’s semaphores; it’s Morse Code. Let’s return to the old forms, old before any of us were born: the ticker tape, the telegraph, the phone. Let’s have a parade where we all send messages at once and they cascade down around us like waterfalls of code: 0s and 1s blinking on and off, black and white like the opening to The Matrix. Maybe this is looking behind the veil, seeing what’s (in here) instead of out there, finding out what we’re made of, what our relationships are made of: Poly-cotton? Viscose? Taffeta, Darling? A 1970’s flammable blend?

The telegraph machine taps out: What. Are. We. Made. Of.

We may not want to know but we’re going to find out.

Green-Wood Cemetery, Brooklyn NY