“hey don’t forget
nexguard and heartguard for bud (50-60lbs) single dose”
This is the vet loot I’m supposed to get tomorrow morning for my roommate, a New Orleans native, before she leaves town tomorrow afternoon.
Today was a long one driving around in the freshly hot spring chaos traffic, which consisted of:
- a Canal and Claiborne rescue/ride home from a friend’s broke-down escape route vehicle,
- a trip to the Tulane dorm dumpsters to raid the primest hours of rich kid panic trash (but only having the time to make off with one armful: desk lamp, trash can, make-up, ear pods, Clorox wipes, study snacks, and rosé vodka, whatever the fuck that is),
- a Walmart meltdown during which I noticed a fever and sheet-ply became the beginning and end of St Bernard Parish (bonus points: I pooped in both bathrooms),
- a quick-plunge relay into every drug store within a 2 mile radius of my house in search of just one. fucking. thermometer,
- a stop at a friend’s for his extra thermometer, and cash-for-Venmo exchange, wherein we learned fever was not with us, after all,
- a quick attempt to #organize with other like-minded apocalypticopunks, and
- an airport pick-up of a close friend who, by the time they got to us, had slipped into a manic episode centering on racism as a virus. Tried not to think too hard about it.
When I finally got home, my best friend, fellow Louisiana native, dog mom, roommate, and all-around rock told me she was leaving with her boyfriend for the safety of the Dallas suburbs.
I about fell apart. And then she went on, offering me her room, “If you don’t feel comfortable sleeping in that front room, please sleep in mine.” I replied confidently that my dog’s barking would be a decent deterrent to potential intruders. She stopped mid-stride and seemed to struggle with whether or not to tell me about her post-Katrina experience in our neighborhood. She settled on “I’m not talking about people breaking in to try to steal stuff.” At that, I took a seat. She continued, “Here, take my hittin’ stick.”
I stayed quiet in my chair, listening intently to her absent-minded singing as she packed, and began to work up a cry. By this time my boyfriend was at home, taking care of our friend, who needed one-on-one interaction. I felt alone and terrified.
Up to now, I’d known the outside world was changing drastically, but I had assumed my inside world would only get tighter and more comfortable. Being a person with very little community and no family, my people being occupied away from me felt extremely isolating. Everyone I knew in town was either fleeing, literally losing their mind, blatantly disregarding their social responsibilities, or caring for the sick and upset. I was genuinely glad they were doing what they needed to. I was especially glad that my roommate was “not gonna go through this again.” I wished her happy camping, promised to call regularly, and agreed to join her for Big Daddy’s last call. Like every other bar and restaurant in the city, the 24hr dive joint was closing its doors indefinitely at midnight.
As I see it, the fear in New Orleans is not so much fear of the virus—among my friends, most are young, and a lot of them are trying to set a responsible example among our peers: social distancing, caring for our immuno-compromised neighbors—our fear is more directed at what will happen under martial law. Muggings are already ramping up. The store at my corner was looted last night and the house two down from mine earlier today, in broad daylight. There have been sightings of oogle hordes running around with ski masks and machetes. A friend involved in drug and homeless outreach theorizes this is because most everyone in the city right now is having to kick drugs. There’s particularly evil landlords and ICE to consider. And trying to make safe, sane decisions, based on a potential future where transportation might not be an option is nearly impossible. Walking the line between doom fetish and optimism looks more like prolonged low-level mania than practical realism.
This morning I woke up at 7:00, found myself scrubbing and polishing my floors with a barely-touched bowl of oatmeal out cold on my desk. Time is a coiled snake, an anvil, and a dull pudding.
My friend wound up not being okay. I quit drinking just after midnight at an S.O.S. call from my boyfriend and wove myself through the queue of cops holding flashlights in all the windows of the bar. After making sure two friends got home through their black-outs, I booked it over to his place. We stayed up all night trying to get them to go to sleep and in the morning it became clear that we needed to get them to their parents immediately. This was Tuesday:
- 10:30am vet appointment for doggie ear infection. Deep fear vets would close.
- Race to other vet for heartworm meds stock-up. Make transaction in the parking lot.
- Meeting in my room where three friends try to figure out where to be in the coming months and we all realize we don’t know when we’ll see each other again. I remember I dreamt this scene months ago, but try not to think about it.
- Realize my friend who was crashing on our couch has already day-drank a quarter handle of my leftover Jell-o shot rum and refuses to leave “until planet earth is over.” He was talking about the nature documentary. I choose not to think about how it sounds. Mad dash phone call to a Florida friend that could buy him a ticket home to DC, before the airlines halt all flights.
- Packing for overnight trip, plus separate bag of cold meds, tampons, and books, in case the federal government shuts everything down and we can’t get back home. Trump is unpredictable, and tampons are expensive.
- Run interference between my lawyer neighbor and some friends being harassed by their landlord.
- Finally get in the car. Spend the next 18 hours driving to Chattanooga and back, stop three times only. Tearful time. All hands on deck. Parents sweet as pie. Maniacally propose to my boyfriend at the Tennessee Welcome Center. Leave him and don’t know when I’ll see him again. Begin Redbull trek home. Do NOT talk about Coronavirus.
Thursday I woke up with a migraine that darkness and sleep couldn’t cure. Broke down crying. A lot. Once the nausea went away, I listened to the full Baby One More Time album, and put on the Taylor Swift documentary while cleaning my room, because I was pretty sure the stress-sleeping is what gave me the migraine in the first place. An acquaintance said these compulsions served a purpose of establishing normalcy, but not one part of that routine was normal for me at all.
I look around at my clean floors and desk and am so grateful for my home and so afraid to leave it and also afraid to stay. I’m afraid of how good I have it, a feeling that isn’t abated by spending at least half of every day helping other people. I start orienting around the world ending, and I realize I’m overreacting. And every time I orient around my comfort and productivity, I’m reminded the world is in a panic. The city is home-bound, but there’s no rest. We all have to rely on each other to get through this safely, but the U.S. is not a place accustomed to doing this.
I think America’s trust is being tried. Everyone’s futures are whipping around like garden hoses. But my block finally feels like a neighborhood, because everyone is at home and looking out for each other. We have a group chat now. Someone is sharing their tree lemons. People are saying this is when the U.S. will finally have to lean into socialism.
The last COVID New Orleans news update I read was titled, “Why is the National Guard here?”