It was another life even though it was only last Tuesday. G. had an extra ticket to see Six on Broadway, an evening show. We counted out the tax season social math together, to figure out if I could even take the ticket. We are close enough to each other that I could be plain in my litany of demands – I need you to pick me up for work at 4:45p and take me to the post office. We can leave from there. Don’t come inside the office, we’ll never get out. We can go to dinner before the show and a very quick drink and be home by about 11p. This is late and dangerous because if anything goes off the rails I could lose a day’s work and they will want to murder me. I need you to drive. I need you to drive me home. I need Jow to take me to work the next morning because my car will be there at the office. But tax season is another six weeks of being locked down. It’s worth the risk for this. G. has run large events. She is experienced in the ways of everything diva (and now also tax season). She was on board.
It’s one of our favorite shows. G. hadn’t seen it yet and I wanted to be there when she did. I saw it in the West End last summer in London and I saw the Broadway matinee version with Jow. Jow and I drank endless teacups of boozy punch and dipped chicken and waffles in to delicious gravy and then watched the show. He loved it. I’m critical of everything ever, so I was less impressed at the time though still happy enough with it. I wondered what it would be like once they worked out the kinks of translating British-English into American-English, tightened up their dancing, fixed the sound problems and could all throw themselves all into their roles. I also wondered if it would be racier in the evening. Now, I would get to find out the answer.
I happened to have a credit for a very closely located parking garage, a bigger boon now than it was when I received it. We went to a beautiful Mediterranean restaurant that was all crisp white ropes and walls with cerulean blue blown glass. It was just fancy enough that usually I would prefer sitting at the bar than the fuss of a full service meal, but it’s tax season and the fuss felt good. It was as close to Holly Black’s vision of fairy food I am likely to ever get to without a whole lot of effort – beautiful ceviche served with head and tail strewn with pansies and microgreens with spicy mandarin, farro paella with prawns that are so giant and juicy that I feel slightly bad that I didn’t fight them first, an assortment of fresh baked baklava that was redolent with honey. We don’t know the words past baklava, so we call them hay bales and round guys and regular guys when discussing them.
We head over to Six and in only two weeks, they have fixed all of the things I wanted to see fixed. It’s technically not even opening night yet and it’s everything I wanted it to be. Fresh, funny, sharp, amazing outfits and voices as well as a sometimes painful commentary on how few of our struggles have changed with so much time.
I give G. my I’m such a party talk which went something like, okay, we can go drink rose booze punch out of tea cups a block away but one drink only and you’re not one of those light weights who needs like an hour after one drink before she can drive, right? Again, we’re close, she knew what she was signing up for. She’s just happy to get rose-St. Germain-vodka-burlesque bitters punch out of a floral teacup so she’s amenable. The bar is bustling and lit mostly by candle light and there’s herbs and bitters and fruit. We drink our tea cups full of boozy punch and talk and toast. As I drink the last sip of my cocktail, I get that feeling I sometimes get when everything aligns perfectly for a long breath -And in that moment, I swear we were infinite. (Perks of Being a Wallflower)
We drive home. I sleep six hours, I drag myself through the next day feeling hung over from stepping outside of my routine but also optimistic that life would be interesting and exciting again after tax season. The night made all the more delicious the next day for stepping outside of my very structured tax season life.
There was a growing buzz of very loud whispers at this point that the pandemic could get serious. I was mostly hitting ignore at the time, honestly. Real talk, I’m usually the worst in the very beginning of the apocalypse. I do not want to deal with it.
By Thursday (two days later), I was so anxious from not knowing what to do or what daily life should look like, I couldn’t ignore it. One of the first things I wailed to Jow when I finally got to see him was, If I knew we would never be allowed out ever again, I would have had two teacups of punch!
As some of you know, I have fibromyalgia. While that’s a super fun party on an average day, it also makes me (immune) compromised. I needed to do some risk assessment about what would be reasonable for me to do.
I can’t go to the gym.
I can’t go out to brunch.
I can’t go for coffee.
I can’t spend twelve straight hours at HomeGoods.
I can go to work (still possibly dangerous with clients and deliverers but the feds and the state so far dgaf about risk assessment).
I can go home.
That’s much more oppressive than I was writing my book where there would at least be weekly brunch and weekly trips to a local yoga studio.
All I could see at first was how much this made me feel like a trapped rat. I love routine. I love my spa like gym. I love the world. I love freedom. Being locked down for tax season is hard enough, but there were always small outlets and now they are closed off to me too.
My Favorite Houseguest (MFH) was able to calm me down as he is in a similar situation in terms of risk assessment. About how we need to rethink the way we look at things. That we need to talk via voice more and all “get together” to lounge and watch Witcher and yell at the television together. That I’ve worked very hard on my home and now my home needs to become a lot of things it wasn’t before – a gym, a yoga studio, a lab for magic and cooking, a reading/writing retreat, a bar, a brunch spot.
This morning when I woke up in a blind panic, I asked myself what can I do? I could organize our emergency pantry shelf so I don’t have to worry about going without. I went out to gather supplies earlier in the week. I can connect with Jow and my inner circle of (gender neutral) Amazons. I can “go to” concerts of all stripes from home. I can source articles about daily issues I’m concerned about that come from reputable sources and share that information through social media. I can ask questions. I can try to bring up my Sister Queens’ morale through social media efforts. I can curate lists of things that may be helpful and share them on social media. If I am doing things like writing and cooking, maybe it will help inspire others to do things that they find helpful in times of great anxiety.
In a lot of ways, we’re being pushed forward into a life that many of us (myself included) claimed to want. But it’s hard to want something when it wasn’t chosen. When it’s a path that we were forced to walk. If our future is mostly darkness and dragons, it’s hard to embrace it. It’s not impossible to embrace this particular dragon though, just difficult. We still can chose our narrative, our frame work, our story. We can still chose aspects of this new life. There can be less distraction, we can chose our media intake more consciously, where we can pay more attention to our home life. I don’t know what this new life will look like yet – it’s too new, it’s too early to tell. For me at least. I don’t generally go gently into the apocalypse.
But we are standing together in a place where we get to make this choice for ourselves. Where we have more time to eat more consciously, where we hold onto each other to get through this, where we chose to connect to each other, where we can read, where we can write, where we play with our children using more make believe, where we dream new recipes, where we weave and spin and knit. I don’t know what the post-pandemic world will look like. There may not be a post pandemic world. There’s not a post AIDS world yet, but we’ve gotten better at navigating it together. We have solutions that were completely fathomless even thirty years ago for a disease that was killing so many people we loved. We learned to manage. We will learn to manage again.
We can use our words, our songs, our art, our magic, our devotion, our recipes, our love for creation as beacons so we can keep finding each other. So we can keep whispering to each other in the dark together, Sister Queens.
Where we dream. Together.