Dispatch from My Little Corner in the US's COVID-19 Ground Zero

hard to know what to say anymore


Well, hello.

Remember the good old days when I was like “I am not worried about Coronavirus?” Well, yeah, now I am! Funny how that works. I guess it took Queens, where I live, being now called the Pandemic Ground Zero of America. All we hear our ambulances 24/7. Elmhurst Hospital is just around the corner—we have several doctors who work there in my building. Everyone is wearing a mask now. I barely go outside. I have lost gigs (most my money comes from speaking) and truly do no know how I will survive if this goes on much longer.

On the upside: I am not sick. Not sick with COVID-19 at least. I no longer have access to my doctor’s IV room, where I went weekly for infusions that have helped me regain my health. No idea what will happen now that my doctor has closed up shop. But I am still grateful to be well. Every day I wake up congested and take my temperature and it is always my usual lizardy 97.3 or so. I have bad allergies so that is mimicking the virus for me. I take lots of my usual supplements, try to eat really well, hit up my portable infrared sauna, and, oh, I pray. A lot.

I now sleep from about 4am to 11am. This is new for me. I count down the hours to when it’s dark and then a sense of delight and safety washes over me. I can pretend I am just a teen again living for when everyone is asleep. Except the everyone is just now the news cycle.

I message with friends about music, books, art. We LOL, we LMAO. Once in a while the conversation breaks apart into panic. “I wonder if this is it, if this is how I will die.” Then we just continue sending each other funny videos and laughing silently at each other into our computers.

I am baking again. I made that same olive oil cake. But this time I was panicking the whole time. A cup and a fourth of precious olive oil means my reserves are almost all wiped out. It took me two weeks to find eggs and the recipe calls for three. People are reporting flour shortages and this took care of my supply. I take little slices of this cake every day as if it is the most precious thing.

My roommate and I take turns making meals in our kitchen. We found an old stash of Miller High Life’s the other day from a Christmas Party we had just a few months ago which now feels like years ago. Drinking bad beer feels so luxurious.

I have the wildest nightmares. Always plane crashes, right on Queens Boulevard, which my bedroom window faces. I wake up and the day is underway and I watch the people line up casually outside the Walgreens, each a whole supine person apart, going in one after another, as if this was what they always did.

Sometimes we wake up to news that is not so bad but by the end of the day it turns out bad. It feels like every single day is “the worst day yet” for the Unites States in terms of deaths.

I no longer know how many have died but I know they think a quarter million Americans might die. I can’t tell anymore what numbers are large, what are small. The scale here is so hard to understand.

My parents don’t check in with me that much. They are in California and immigrants who escaped war so nothing phases me. On 9/11 they barely checked in. They think I can survive anything. I worry about their survival in California where they aren’t testing as much, where they say the worst will hit in a couple weeks. I wish we could trust our elected officials but that seems like the biggest joke of all.

New lows every day.

In our building, only three are allowed at a time in the elevator. Old people are to ride alone. Old people can use the laundry room alone between 7-10am. We got a slip saying we can discuss financial hardship with rent—I emailed, we shall see. Every few days we get an update from the building manager, full of boring tips and platitudes about survival. They say no one in the building has it yet but we all know if they do they won’t say, even though they are supposed to. My building has 1000+ in it and the complex is made up of three buildings. I live on the eleventh floor and in the evenings when I walk my dog around the courtyard I see almost every light on. We are all here and waiting. We hope to keep being here and waiting. We know just a bit outside of this place there is so much death.

Spring has kicked in and the weather is perfect. Air quality perfect. If the ambulances would let up, you would hear birds nonstop. The sun is so bright and the sky so blue. Someone online mentioned 9/11 day looked like this and it’s somewhat true though the weather is even better and the air even cleaner. Who would have guessed, when you take humans out of the equation nature flourishes.

I got two new pre-pub reviews for my forthcoming book, the first time I got two starred reviews and not even a line of negative comments in a review. It’s almost sad—this may be my best book and yet I can’t even promote it right. (Please preorder wherever if you can though!) Penguin Random House has not totally pulled the plug on my book tour but they likely will. There may be virtual readings which of course I am used to from the last tour, when I got too sick to promote Sick.

I am so tired of sickness.

I am so tired of the very idea of fighting to stay alive.

I am so tired of worrying about all of us.

I am so tired of the not-knowing.

I am so tired.

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