Is there life after covid-19? The latest reports say we’ll never be rid of it. Every week In the past two months at least two people I know have come down with the virus. All fully vaccinated.
When a friend recently revealed that she can’t remember what the shutdown was like. I reminded her she’s still working from home. Working remotely could be on the life-after-covid list if your definition of life-after isn’t back-to-normal. I recommended Elly Griffiths latest novel, “The Closed Room.” In that book, the protagonist, Ruth Galloway, receives a voicemail from a prime witness coughing up an urgent message to call her. When the call came in, Ruth was stocking up on toilet paper and cat food at the supermarket. By the time she returned the call, the witness had died of covid.
At the beginning, March 2020, dramatic shutdown rules came on too fast. As I sauntered toward an afternoon celebration at my neighborhood church, I waved to one of the pastors dashing toward the redline.
“Headed home! The church is shutting down,” he shouted.
“What? Everything? Even the exercise classes?”
“Everything. Starting tomorrow.”
I whispered the news to a circle of friends, as if it were a secret.
“All our classes will be on Zoom,” one said.
“What’s Zoom?” I asked.
“I don’t know,” she said.
After covid, conversations are peppered with “before covid” and “before the pandemic.” My favorite, “in the Before Times” sounds like an era. The Before Times. There’s a definite marker.
Before covid I attended church and had spontaneous lunches with friends. During covid and now after covid, Sunday is a day like any other. No church. No ad hoc “let’s grab a bite”. Time, no longer marked by ticking off a schedule of events that includes travel, is measured by brushing my hair before I click on my Zoom square.
Indoor group amusements proliferated for a time until the phrase “super-spreader” caught fire. I felt immune for life after triple vaccinations and a mild case of covid. But these days I read my immunity has waned and a new variant is out to get me.
At my first indoor group event post-shutdown, a lovely friend aimed her big red pursed lips at my cheek.
“Nooo! I can’t do that!” I said.
Partiers who had bragged incessantly on Zoom chats for the previous two years about mask-wearing, lining up for vaccinations and social distancing, embraced and kissed as if covid had been eradicated. In order to protect myself from this affectionate mob, I sat down. It worked for a while until latecomers greeted me with a drapey hug.
I left the party when I could no longer muster up the necessary social graces to keep friends at arms’ length.
At the Goodman Theater recently I had a slight panic attack when the usher said they no longer require vax cards, only masks. I didn’t fear catching the virus. I feared theater bosses were presuming vaccinations don’t matter. Or, don’t work.
Oh for the simple worries in the era of the Before Times!