I cannot remember anything lately. My blood sugar levels run up and down all day and my brainfog is thick with worry. Except for walks, I haven’t really left my house in weeks—I have diabetes, so I am taking all of the precautions. And I count myself lucky to be able to stay home and still work. Friends and family members are losing their jobs, or fear losing their jobs, or fear getting the virus because they have to go to work. People I know are sick with what sounds like COVID-19, except they cannot get tested. And even despite all this precarity, people are still looking for ways to lend a hand. This response sprang up organically and has helped smooth the edges off my cynicism—an attitude sharpened by the actions of our government which is more concerned about corporations than it is about people and public health.
Of course we are helping each other, we must; it’s our responsibility to care, help, nurture. But the cruelty of our government is overwhelming. In prioritizing the economy and potentially risking millions of lives, elected leaders show an inhumane and illogical response. It strikes us as nonsensical; we ask, how can they do this? Just like in many other countries that have already experienced the “peak,” US healthcare workers are already saying that there are not enough resources to treat those who will become seriously ill. There are not enough tests to go around either; the CDC declined to use the World Health Organization’s test and then botched its own test. This shameful lack of preparation conceals the true numbers of people who are sick—including those who are asymptomatic, carrying the virus and spreading it unknowingly. As the disease exponentially spreads, we are so far behind.
I absorb and process the news like this all day, every day. My mind tries hard to make sense of it and rationalize, organize and prepare. Some days I am super productive and hyper focused, other days I get so overwhelmed by everything that I absolutely must nap for at least an hour. Some days I think we’ll get through all of this somehow, other days I stare blankly and cannot believe this is real. And then my moods bounce around as my memory continues to struggle. I retrace my digital footsteps, the timestamps on my phone photos, notes, texts, and debit card purchases. On March 10, I took a photo on the 2600 block of St. Paul Street, on my way to work, of a blue balloon on the sidewalk. It’s not a good photo and I didn’t think it would be when I snapped it, but I liked the contrast of bumpy gray cement behind the matte latex cobalt balloon. A slight wind pushed the balloon around, picked it up. It is the kind of image I used to paint, when I had a studio and time to use it—something inconsequential that I saw while walking around, head down, that I’m rendering and imbuing with some secret significance, the memory of what was going on when I saw the thing.