Self-Isolation Self-Portrait

A few months ago I wrote: “Somebody could tell me tanks were at the Canadian border or the entire Eastern Seaboard has been quarantined and I would believe it. This is the age of the permanent suspension of disbelief.” These mordant observations don’t seem so clever nowadays. The Canadian border is closed, city life has come to a standstill, and we’re told to shelter-in-place. Meanwhile, I stare at the manuscript I’d hoped to finish by May. For years I’ve been reworking this fable about faith that takes place in the near future. Maybe this was always a fool’s errand. I’m beginning to understand why so many stories are set in the past.

A man down the block hollered into his phone. “You can’t even smell it,” he cried. “This corona has no odor!” I wonder how he moves through the world, this man in a wrinkled suit who defines danger by scent. Now there’s a story.

I want to believe we will return to a better world after this. Then I saw a close-up photo of the president’s speech that revealed he crossed out the word corona with a Sharpie and replaced it with Chinese. Nearly four thousand infections in New York City and there’s a shortage of ventilators and masks. The daily news is the new science fiction.

Tomorrow I will do my best to wake up and write and maybe even stretch a little before I let the world into my head. I will make phone calls and help where I can. But tonight I sympathize with Will Durant’s wistful sketch of Rousseau: “He escaped from the stings of reality into a hothouse world of dreams.”


Aphex Twin – Ventolin (Probus Mix)

From Ventolin | Warp, 1995 | More

A song dedicated to respiration. From Aphex Twin’s suite of tracks named for a drug for treating asthma and bronchoconstriction. Which some people are now hoarding.

Each day in 2020 I'm writing a short post for a series called Notes From the End of a World because I want to etch these uneasy times into my memory before I forget them. Before the world changes completely.

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