When I started writing this, I had a whole lot more to say about coronavirus than I do now.
I sat in my bedroom, converted into a quasi office for coming Zoom misadventures, and wrote sentence after lamenting sentence about Vassar’s cancellation, what an influx of disgruntled college students would mean for my home in Chicago, and and and and and—only to check Twitter in fits of distraction and find that everything I could possibly say had already been said.
I’ve started over and over and over again.
I keep returning to one moment that seems stuck in my mind. One night in September I was walking back to Joss from the THs, and I was moody. (We’ve all done a moody walk from the THs.) The night was so clear, and I can remember how it smelled like fading grass meeting burgeoning cold. I played Neil Young’s “Harvest Moon” as I passed Chicago Hall, feeling snide and clever for my impeccable timing. The real harvest moon was bright above me, lighting my hands as I threw them out to my sides and reached upwards, stretching.
I danced in front of Chicago Hall to Neil Young until I started to cry. Then I danced and cried until I became self aware again and stopped. I could see the purple light of my room waiting to welcome me from where I stood outside, but I wasn’t ready to go in yet. I took a lap instead.
Young’s sounds were like a train chugging endlessly to quench the thirst of an unrequited something. Upbeat and steady and mournful. That’s how I feel now. Give or take steady. Give or take upbeat.
I won’t be at Vassar for the next harvest moon, but I’m grateful to have another one coming down the line and a spring in between. I can’t wait to see the leaves change and see my breath spiraling in front of me as I crane my head out my window, getting one last crisp gulp of outside air before bed. I have to choose to believe that there will be some universal justice for the unrequited then.
Between now and then is a crisis unbelievable in scope. I have found myself over the last few weeks humbled time and time again by how impossibly big and hard to grasp contagion is. How it can reach, snarling into every crevice of a day. How something unforgiving and inhuman can take everything away so personally. I repeat to myself that this is bigger than me, bigger than my family, than my college or my city, but I can’t help but ache solipsistically.
In my dim room at 4 a.m., I feel sorry for myself. I white-knuckle my comforter and squeeze my eyes shut until I see my veins, trying to reconcile crushes unrealized, friends that I didn’t get to say goodbye to, shows undone, and how a year in which I finally felt comfortable at college could end in such a blaze of un-glory.
But then I open my eyes, the light filters back in honeycombs, and I feel grateful. I think about my last night in New York, staying in Queens with my best friend from Vassar. We ate Indian food and stayed up late talking about family. It wasn’t such a bad way to end the year at all.
I think about the homes and families I have there and in Pittsburgh, Texas and London, England and Chicago, Illinois and Poughkeepsie, New York. Those families and their families are who this is happening for. We are protecting each other. Because we love each other.
There are things I could have done; times I could have been braver or more present. I wish I could have trusted myself more to cry outside of Chicago Hall alone at night instead of just inside of it in class during the day. But I am lucky enough to have time for all of that. I can’t wait to be happy and giddy and bleary and frustrated and to see my friends dance again.
So, upbeat and steady and mournful. Give or take, it is.