I have a friend who keeps texting me when it’s going to snow. He doesn’t even live in Minnesota anymore, but he still pays attention because of all the fond memories of winters he’s had here. I can understand that. I still get news letters in my email from my home town and, unlike the actual residents of that town, I will read it from top to bottom. There’s something comforting about it. And he gets happy every time he sees that another 4-6 inches of snow is headed my way.
But not me. Thanks to Covid preventing me from getting together with friends, and preventing me from going into the office- I’ve turned into a shut-in. Seriously. I’m in the house so much that the cabin fever has reversed and I don’t even want to go outside anymore. Just going to Target feels just as tedious as if someone asked me to ‘pick them up at the State Fair’. Where would I park? How am I going to find them? Do I really have to stand around with people who actually want to spend a whole day at the fair? You see where I’m going with this bit. But, like all human beings, I crave human interaction. Sure I have my kids here half the time, but I need actual adults to talk to. Watching clips on TikTok and hearing about homework can’t replace the joy I have in sitting back with a beer and “gettin’ blue” with the fella’s. So, when my kids aren’t around, I practically run to the window like an excited dog every time someone walks by out front. I do it all the time now.
It starts out innocently enough. Just a normal man noticing that more people are out walking now that everyone works from home. Then, a little more weird, but still normal– I start to notice how many people have dogs, and begin recognizing individual’s from day to day.
It takes a darker turn when I recognize the dogs, and remember the last time they took a piss on my lawn. Then I will notice days where someone different is walking that same dog, and start to pay attention to which days a man or woman are walking that dog. Oh, I am smart enough to deduce that they’re a married couple taking turns. And oh.. I notice gaps in when the woman is walking the dog, and start to get concerned. You’d have to be blind to not see two weeks go by where only the man is scooping up turds from my yard.
They’re divorced now, I know it. And in this hostile world where a pandemic denies people the human interaction that is fundamental to happiness, I worry that he is all alone in his pain. I, too, am divorced. I, too, have felt the pain of isolation due to the judgements of others. I have so much wisdom to offer if I could only just talk to him. I sit on that for as long as I can, fighting back the urge to hug him and make soothing sounds in his ear. Because, though I feel as if I know them so well by now, they don’t know anything about me. It’s a very thin tether preventing me from the inevitable day when I chase after him, arms outstretched and covered in pillows that I’ve taped to my body (because I want to give him the softest hug-sperience). But I’m holding strong. I just try to focus on what foods might be causing my hair to get thin. I think I’ve nearly got that figured out. Maybe it’s something I can talk about with Phil to help get his mind off the divorce.
So, realizing that I was slipping, I started making myself go out for walks at least once a day just to be around people in some capacity. It doesn’t really help knowing that I’ve essentially reached the same breaking point as the creepy guys that nap at the mall. It also doesn’t make me feel much better when I see people notice how I’m muttering old conversations I’ve had under my breath. I’m just practicing for the next one so I don’t come off awkward. But they don’t understand.
So, when my friend lets me know that it’s going to snow, I’ll text back a good-natured, “Oh don’t you go wishing for too much snow, now. You’re not the one who has to shovel it. Ha, ha…” And he’ll reply, “That was a fun little exchange we just had. You have a great week.”
But he doesn’t know how I stare out the window as I put the phone down. How I’m counting the dogs and waiting for the spring, when I will be a ‘perfect man’ and ‘get it right this time’ for Phil, and the people at the park I can’t wait to walk to again.