Welcome to the web version of 500 Words, a place for creative risk-taking. I’m posting about what happens when we slowly accept the impossible. When you see posts that are numbered, they are part of a series. To receive the posts in order as they come out, just click the button below. You’ll receive 500 words of short-form goodness in your inbox once a week.
I made a mask out of an old t-shirt and it was flawed, terribly flawed, and my breath fogged my glasses. I looked around at the world and admired the masks that other people wore. That mask fits well, I said to myself. Right there, that is a stylish black mask. Look, that mask has a filter so you can breathe a little. Many people were walking around without fogged glasses. I began to despair.
I considered going to the tailor down the street who was making them. I wondered what kind of mask you wear when you go to buy a mask. Would there ever be an answer to that? I spent some evenings with my iPad reading articles in the New York Times about mask-making. T-shirts, scarves, repurposed maxi-pads were all drafted into battle. Weeks ago, when Farhad Manjoo ran a piece in the Times claiming that soon we would all have to make our own masks, I considered this proclamation as unlikely as hearing that my seven-year-old son would have more Zoom meetings that I would. I snapped the iPad shut. This pandemic wouldn’t last that long. In no time, we would be back to eating food at public tables and mingling with strangers.
And yet, week by week, not only does the outrage cycle strengthen, it surges into a cyclone of fuckery. The US Dept of Health and Human Services has a newly-appointed vaccine czar. His name is Brian Harrison and he is a breeder of labradoodles.
A labradoodle breeder is in charge of the vaccine. Yeah, here’s the link: Pluralistic: 24 Apr 2020 – Pluralistic: Daily links from Cory Doctorow. Cory Doctorow has a blog that catalogues these things and he provides original sources. Yeah, and if you try injecting disinfectant at least you don’t have to sterilize the needle first. Also malaria meds work on this thing until they kill you, which is kind of a way of them working, you know?
But hey. A friend drove 45 minutes north with her family to go to a deserted beach that wasn’t closed. I saw a woman in a black bikini riding a bicycle no handed, not wearing a mask, and she was happy, a bubble floating down the street. When we have something delivered, I wash it. Then I wash my hands. The skin on them has started to break open like a river bed in which no river has run for a long time. We watch videos about luxury wallpaper. We can dream. This is a period of introspection and wearing the same socks several times. I work on my playlists. I have ordered a pile of books from Powell’s, enough to anchor my night-table through any storm.
When I admire the look of masks on other people it is my way of cracking. The fissure is my small acceptance of the impossibleness we inhabit now. Look, when you are wearing a mask you can’t smile with your eyes unless you are Mister Rogers. The faces out there are missing information. Everyone looks like they are going to rob a bank. I am learning how to make pickles. Not because I have the time, but because it is a window into self-sufficiency. If you can make a pickle, you can seize control of your life, at least the little bit of it that fits into a jar.
This is what I tell myself, but I don’t know. I don’t really know. Not yet, but I do know that this is a rehearsal for something much bigger.