Do you remember your last normal day?
The last day before the world changed? Before your life turned into this weird version of something else?
Mine was a Monday.
I haven’t worked Mondays since my son was born 12 years ago, and for one reason or another, my husband had taken the day off. Maybe he had a doctor appointment. I really can’t remember that detail. But I remember we we hung out together during the day on a Monday- a totally rare thing. I guess we should have known it was a sign.
Maybe if we had known it was the last normal day, maybe we would have made love in the mid day, or maybe we would have had a picnic with champagne in the sweet, chilly March sun. But we didn’t.
We went and browsed at the Gap and Old Navy. I bought a polka dot tee shirt and I bought two soft cotton dresses that could be worn business casual in the spring and summer. On that last, normal day, the weather was still too cool for such attire, but I was looking forward and they were on sale.
Then we had lunch at a Red Robin. We ate messy burgers that we slopped ketchup on from a communal bottle. We pulled paper towels out of a roll on the table and didn’t think our lives or the lives of all we loved were at stake.
During lunch we chatted about NPR segments that said we needed to be prepared to be kept home for extended periods of time. My husband mused about the economy and about China and about things I couldn’t really grasp. I all felt like something impossible, like we were musing about the plot of a new Star Wars movie.
Four days later, on that Friday, we learned our kids were coming home from school for an indefinite period of time. My husband’s work sent him home for “two weeks”. I went to work and found out we would be working remotely for a week.
One week, two weeks turned into a month. A month turned into more.
We learned to stand in line compliantly to wait our turn to grocery shop at Trader Joes. We learned to wear masks. We learned to tune in to the pressers that informed us of our risks and how to keep safe.
Life changed almost overnight.
And here we are.
Nearly four months later, I still think about that lunch with my husband. When I put on the dresses I bought that day, a pang grips me in a super painful way. It is the weirdest thing. I don’t miss shopping or eating out in chain restaurants, don’t get me wrong. It’s not that. Sure, I miss going to art museums and movie theaters and not having to think about risking my life for a glimpse of culture. But what I truly miss is the sense of safety in humanity.
These dreams come now. I dream I’m out in a crowd and I don’t have a mask. Or I dream I’m just in a crowd and no-one else knows about the virus. I dream my children are venturing into unsafe places where people don’t believe in PPE. I try to pull them closer to me, but an omnipresent hum of viral droplets and republican rhetoric pulls them from me.
I long for that last normal day. I want to laugh over lunch with my husband and talk about picking up the kids without the knowledge of how my entire brain and being would be altered by a virus I’ve never even had.