What Is

I’ve taken some hiata before. I wish it was “hiata.”

There has been less to say.

But: I made all the boxes, left and came home to my disassembled home, hauled the boxes, profusely thanked the people who helped me move the boxes. I moved into my mom’s living room. I moved into my friend’s upstairs. He made nice cocktails and had other guests who could talk about science. We sat outside. “I know people don’t want to talk about it,” the guest said. “I want to talk about it.”

This was when the pandemic was theoretically over.

I went to a dinner party. To some extent, we had forgotten how to talk to each other. To some extent, no one wanted to talk about covid, but then, what else was there to talk about? Covid had run our lives for a year.

I politely drank some bubbly white wine, though I dislike white wine, and I hate bubbles.

I met new people, people who had been to Spain or once had an elderly dog or knew the former mayor well. I wore a new dress and no one said, “What a lovely dress,” which I didn’t take personally, at all, but noted as part of the hollow tin soldier way we were trying to go about things. We were noting who was plumper (me) and who was older (some), but also who looked mysteriously fresh (how do they do it).

People kept asking if I had found a job, and I kept telling them that I was sure I would soon, but thinking that I never would, that this was the world telling me my time and talents were useless, both as a woman over 40 and a human being who disliked the excesses of capitalism.

Around this time it turned out the pandemic was just taking a break. I was at my summer graduate class when the announcement was released for the United States: masks on. I will forever be grateful to have been in a room with other disappointed humans at that moment. We were crushed, but crushed together.

Then I had two interviews.

I got two job offers.

Both seemed like okay jobs. But while one was teaching English to ninth graders, an endeavor I had already accomplished three times, an endeavor that directly sucked life force out of my skin suit, the other was teaching English to kids who don’t know English.

My students, when they natter on to each other, are saying things I don’t understand. The cognitive load on me, to consider how to intervene, what to say, if the kids are all right… it’s gone. Their asides are opaque.

This is a perk.

Is someone speaking ill of a sexual orientation? Is someone referencing the female boy inappropriately? I just don’t know, and I can’t know.

I took the job.

I miss the light.

I lived in a light box, and now I live in a place like other people live.

But I love my bathtub.

I feel safer as an ESL teacher. I imagine some people might show up to my new class and say, “Jesus, they are learning the word ‘pirate’? They are still practicing ‘sometimes’ and ‘always’?” How do you communicate with them? YOU MIME?!?”

And then they might slink away, like, I don’t even know, man.

Lately: I try to figure out what is “safe”: masks, people, outings.

The virus will have its way with us. People keep testing their strength against it, and losing.

Nothing is okay. Some things are lovely. Some things are nice.

On a few occasions I find myself taking Kurt Vonnegut’s advice: “Every so often, say to yourself, if this isn’t nice, what is?” My porch is nice, getting coffee down the block is nice, having my cats back together with me is lovely, starting to make little art projects again is nice. I took a little bookshelf and assembled some of my treasures and then sat down with letters to turn it into the Museum of Small. It’s nice.

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