We are in Rona, not at the beginning, and that’s about all we know. We do not know if we are at the middle or the quarter, at the peak or the decline. We do not know when or if Rona will leave or take us with it. We are in it.
Not in the same ways: the historically made vulnerable remain more vulnerable to Rona. Those trained to alleviate our vulnerabilities—healthcare workers, including nurses and doctors and nurses aides and cooks and customer care and sanitation and even payroll, all hospital and clinic staff—are newly vulnerable. And many who seemed invulnerable are newly aware of vulnerability.
We are in the deferral time of Rona, the excused absence of Rona. We dare not attend birthdays and funerals, weddings and graduation parties. We accumulate these losses of sociality, knowing they cannot be repaired. Is repaired the word?
We accumulate our own losses. Our losses gather us.
Later, perhaps, we shall find ways to describe the stranger intimacies Rona creates. Perhaps they shall be like the intimacies we experience in hospital waiting rooms and wards: we nod at each other with recognition and wonder which of our patients will require urgent attention, which will react how to what drugs, which will survive, which will not.
It is an uneasy intimacy, suffused with anxiety and hope, and more anxiety than hope. An intimacy of numbers, of I knew this many people and I lost this many people and I know of this many people and I have been told about this many people. An intimacy that will be unbearable.
How many pole can one say? How often? For how long? Will one suffice for the global dead and dying? What must we forget to persist in our grief? Who will be here to forget and to grieve? Will we be grieved?
In the time of Rona, the line between griever and grieved feels so tenuous, yet it feels obscene to think this, to write this, as it risks taking up the grief that should be directed elsewhere, outwhere, to those who are no longer writing, those who can no longer write, or ask to be written about.
Afters are seductive. We need to imagine them so that we can persist in our efforts to live, to pursue freedom, to love, to care. And our histories tell us there are afters. We are the afters. We hold on to the promise of afters: a time without masks, a time when stranger socialites will not feel so fraught.
From here, from the in, it’s difficult to map the way to the after. It is only from the after that those who make it will know how to map the now-here we are in. They will say if April 2020 was toward the beginning of a still-unfolding disaster, toward the peak of it, or at the beginning of the decline. They will say if we were too optimistic or not optimistic enough. They will say if we overestimated our scientific abilities.
I presume they will do these things. That these things might be useful. That these things will be accompanied by mourning. By losses that cannot be fathomed.
And we who write now write toward the perhaps of an after.