It was one of those days. I really had to get out. All this talk of the omicron variant which sounds almost apocalyptic had got to me. I’ve had enough. We all have. Everyone just wants the world to be back to normal. I long to see faces without masks, which of course is something I guess we won’t see again en masse. I miss human connections. Now everyone is so distant. Living distant. Dying distant. Existing at a distance. I miss being closer.
I was in Kinokuniya, the Japanese book store, when I heard two men shout at each other “Samurai, motherfuckers! Fuck yeah!” I looked at the two guys. They were coming on like they had walked out of Kill Bill. Somehow in that second, the world entered the uncanny valley. Nothing seemed real, nothing seemed right. The faces all masked, my hands in gloves, my glasses misted up. Isolation even amongst others. Community separation. Joy Division’s Ian Curtis was no stranger to Isolation. Closer, their 1980 masterpiece was an exercise in the process of being outside of society, outside of comfort, outside of life, outside of Ian’s own mind, looking in at pure alienation from man and whatever God Ian was referencing in Colony. It is one of the most depressing and claustrophobic albums of all time. Curtis and his Joy Division make Radiohead at their most self hating and down, look positively cheery. Ian doesn’t just feel like a creep, he barely feels anything but pain at all. As I stood in the bookstore, all I could hear going round my head was Ian’s drone, intoning:
This is a crisis I knew had to come
Destroying the balance I’d kept
Doubting, unsettling, and turning around
Wondering what will come next
The happy cheery Christmas music, telling us that Santa had come to town, that he was gonna find out if we were naughty or nice, and wishing the shoppers a merry little Christmas, in-between telling me what hours they were opening on Christmas Eve and calling for various staff members to help open checkouts quickly reduced me to a state of sheer despair. I fucking hate Christmas. It is like staring down the barrel of my own mortality, whilst as Joy Division puts it “knowing I will lose every time”. I can’t win Christmas. It is impossible. I can buy the Boy a gift or two, make alcohol free Gluhwein, and pretend to be full of cheer and goodwill to all men, whilst inside I am desperately trying to make it through the season without falling off the wagon or else wanting to crawl into a deep dark pit of despair and loneliness.
The Kill Bill Twins were arguing over a magazine, of the paper not bullet holding kind, and I was left looking over shelves that were mostly empty, as if some manga devouring locusts had swept through the shop and worked their way through the shelves, stripping them bear. This supply chain mess has gone too far. I needed to find something for the Boy for Christmas. I ended up not finding anything he would enjoy and just came home.
Everyone seemed like they were coughing. Coughing sounds which had been kept in for the last two years as even a throat clearing sent people into righteous indignation and dirty looking, sounded obscene. I just wanted to get out and come home. It feels as if the entire world is ruined with no return to normality. QR codes and passes to get in anywhere. Mandate talk. A world tightening its grip over it’s citizens. A deadly disease. I swear I accidentally left my benign reality and ended up in this one. I want to scream “This is not my reality!” and tear off my mask and gulp down air, but being the decent sort that I try to be, I pull it up over my nose and settle down for a good suffocating.
Isolated behind the mask. Isolated behind the doors. Isolated with no end in sight. I miss hugging people. I miss not wearing stupid nitrile gloves outside. I miss not stinking of hand sanitizer and my glasses not fogging up and sliding down the mask that covers my nose. I miss free breathing. It seems as dangerous and antisocial now as fucking around without a condom on…and I have had enough.
I’m sitting here wondering if any of the coughers had the omicron, and if my mask and theirs and an imperfect immunity was enough to shut it out. Probably not, eh.
But that is the thing, in this new reality such thoughts have to be acknowledged and let go. Que cera cera. If the damn thing passes us over, if we are left ‘Turning around to the next set of lives
Wondering what will come next’ as Curtis put it in Passover, so what? It doesn’t change a damn thing. Nothing will make this go away. Either we survive it or we don’t. Either we cope…or we don’t…it doesn’t really matter to the virus.
I turned around to walk home, carrying some dollar shop christmas tree baubles, a crystalline plastic tiny tree that lights up, and some plum Japanese incense. The store owner told me that it was not the season for plum, and it really isn’t. This is the Dark Winter. Whether we get the smallpox attack that Bill Gates recently mused might happen, or another killer covid variant, I might not make it to next spring to break out the ume. None of us might. We are all screwed. Might as well burn summer fragrances while the sun is hiding. Why wait till tomorrow when it is not assured of coming around?
I was glad to open the door of the apartment building, and hustle up the stairs to my front door. I lurched in, slamming it behind me, scattering apples on the floor as I dropped my tote bag in the hallway. I picked them up, and put one into the Boy’s hand. “Here! Might as well eat it now, I think I bruised this one!” What is the point in waiting? Why even bother?
Outside the window the sirens screamed and the crackheads yulped and growled. A dog barked in the distance, as a murder of crows flew left to right across the skyline. They know that feeding time is just around the corner.