You might’ve noticed life’s a bit bleak right now. Most people I know, myself included, are glued to their phones looking at  doomsday algorithm after doomsday algorithm, Trump fuck up after Trump fuck up.  I check the confirmed cases and death count every morning, while I drink my coffee, after I go on my jog and before I teach my classes on Zoom.

My point is that these are not normal times. And during these not normal times, I want to celebrate the people who are writing on their blogs and on Medium because this is where I’m finding stories that feel the most human, vulnerable, transformative and emotionally impactful. So I am going to be, as often as I can, sharing links to these blogs as part of this COVID-19 Diaries series.

For example, in Yi Shun Lai’s  “The Chinese Virus Made Me Take a Hard Look at My Cultural Heritage,” she takes the racism at the heart of Trump’s language and dissects her own childhood and beliefs about individualism. She uses her personal reaction to these headlines to come to the kinds of questions we need to be asking to survive this pandemic, but that many of us haven’t quite reached yet.

My bike ride yesterday was spent dodging people on the front-country trail, packed close together. And last weekend — the weekend before St. Patrick’s Day — our local brewery was packed with grown-up human beings and their toddlers. (I know this because I was at the cocktail bar across the parking lot. Yes, it was stupid. I’m sorry.) This was right before bars and pubs were asked to close; a few days before we were advised to shelter in place; maybe three or four days before Governor Newsom ordered all Californians to stay in.

We keep on pushing the limits, we Americans. We keep on looking for new wests to conquer. When will it stop?

I think maybe I’m looking for personal stories like this because I’m looking to share in a collective experience. This crisis is hitting me so hard personally, and sometimes I feel very alone in my fear.  My father is on a floor of a memory care facility in Jamaica Plain where a man just died of COVID-19. My dad was about to be evaluated for hospice right before all this went down. They don’t even have enough tests for all the workers and residents. We can’t get in to see him, of course, and there’s a huge waitlist for FaceTime meetings. Will I ever see him again? Will I get to go to his funeral? On top of all that, my partner is facing a potential furlough. I have no idea what my editing business is going to do, or if I will be able to pay rent in May. My mind is completely scattered by all these emergencies, so I have been scouring the Internet for stories that capture this feeling, to find someone else who is as all over the place as me.

Elizabeth Aquino’s blog “We Can Do Hard Things” is just the right kind of scattered, capturing almost exactly what my mind feels like right now. I don’t know if it’s poetry or prose, though it includes two things that are most definitely poems, but by tearing down these barriers, it captures the powerlessness and the hopelessness and rage of this moment in a way I haven’t quite seen elsewhere.

We are all waiting.

My uncle has tested positive for The Virus. He is nearly 84 and lives in an assisted living/retirement home here in Los Angeles. He has no symptoms but is quarantined in his room.

I’ve always felt contempt toward the survivalist — especially the rich ones who live behind barricades and have safe rooms or private jets or extra cars parked across bridges from Manhattan in case terror strikes again. People are making masks out of scrap fabric all across America as we speak.

I’ve thought it, but I’ve never written it: may that POS who is supposedly leading us drown in fluids filling his lungs, alone.

My thoughts do seem to come together, however, one time per day, during my daily jog. If there is one thing  I like about this apocalypse, it’s that people are going on more walks and jogs. It’s not that these are necessarily relaxing. On a jog this morning (I kept more than six feet away from everyone, I promise), I ran by a COVID-19 test spot for LA City workers. Then I jogged by a respiratory hospital, where it looked frighteningly busy. Still, it’s these details that makes this all feel like it’s actually happening. I think what makes me most interested in these blogs is the way these details bring to life what is missing from the headlines and the talking points I’ve been scrolling through all day. At her blog PoeticGirl, Heather D. Pease captures these tiny moments and details of these walks in “Walking During a Pandemic.”

I took a joint with me today, because I feel rebellious. I hide it, out of respect, and this is not rebellious. Songs play in my ear that match my mood as I meander through the sidewalks that curve and dip throughout my neighborhood.

A man and his son are ahead so I stop to give them plenty of space and they disappear. No one wants to get close. I allow my feet to take me where ever they want, I am in no rush, wanting everything to slow down; pretend it’s just another day, a regular day, but even today I cannot fool myself.

When capitalism is forced to a crawl, people go on walks. These walks give us time to start to notice what’s wrong with their lives — in my case, it’s that for the last five years, I’ve been writing for rent money. I’ve been writing for hospitals and universities and, occasionally, if I had time, for a potential future publisher. But I rarely, if ever, wrote for myself and for the people I love. And now that any hope of a financial payoff has disappeared, I am writing about this moment for myself and my family and my community – on my blog, like it’s 2003 – and it feels fucking amazing.

I might be terrified, but it feels good to be writing for the right reasons again. I hope that this post motivates people to blog for the right reasons, too. I hope that this outbreak, if it does anything, reminds people why they write, and for whom. I hope it reminds people how important it is to slow down and notice the details around them, because that’s what makes up life.

In “All We Can Do,” Tanya Ward Goodman captures this moment the way only she can. She’s so good at finding just the right details to capture feeling, place and time.

My husband has nearly finished the second of two 1000-piece jigsaw puzzles. My daughter learned the moves to a new tik-tok dance. My son has built a cathedral in MineCraft. I have baked a vegan bread pudding that delighted even my most carnivorous family member.

We are all doing so much.

I hope to see more writers capturing these details soon, too. If you write a blog and would like me to consider it for a future version of this, please put it in the comments below!

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SETH FISCHER is the editor of TNB Nonfiction. He lives in Los Angeles, where he teaches, writes, edits, and spends a lot of time annoying his cat. His work has appeared in Guernica, Joyland, Best Sex Writing, and elsewhere, and he was the first Sunday editor at The Rumpus. His nonfiction was also selected as notable in The Best American Essays. He teaches at Antioch University Los Angeles, UCLA-Extension, and Writing Workshops Los Angeles.

2 responses to “The COVID-19 Diaries, Vol. 1”

  1. […] good news is I wrote a thing for The Nervous Breakdown about how awesome blogs are. I’m tired of professionalism. I’m tired of millennialism. I want the real right now. I […]

  2. Thank you for this. And yes, so much amazing writing will come from this. With any luck, when it’s over, we will have come together in ways we didn’t expect and learned things that will help us endure. I hope you get to see your father again. My mom is on hospice right now as well and the ache to be in her presence is nothing I ever imagined I’d feel.

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