Coronavirus is an Anagram / Khan Norscrim

It began as a joke to myself. I’d see the dude—home brewer type—beer gut and aggressively bearded. He’s got it, for sure, dispensing it to his homies over brewskis.

But it got out of hand quickly, spreading like the virus. Maybe worse. Everybody had it. The game wasn’t fun anymore. It was paranoia.

Stop making eye contact: that’s emotional distancing, maybe it will help, too.

Masks and gloves, jumping into empty streets to keep at least six feet away from the pedestrian with a slight cough. Waiting in line just to enter the grocery store. Wondering—weeks deep in this mess—will toilet paper become obsolete? Start making a substitution list: paper towels, napkins, self help books, stale tortillas.

How much of working from home is waiting for the at-risk group to figure out how to mute their mics for Zoom meetings?

I had a scratchy throat after leading an online lecture for 3 hours. Was this the beginning of the end? A headache, the morning after drinking too much wine. Could that be the first sign? Felt a little warm after a jog. Probably caught it from one of the other joggers I passed, a little too close on the path around the lake. Too many people breaking quarantine. Too many people. I can’t breathe… is it cause or effect?

What if the disease was a cure? What if we found a pattern? Was it culling the wicked? Punishing us for our iniquities, for not having single-payer healthcare, for inventing drones, for eating too much red meat?

Carnivorous. It’s an anagram of coronavirus.

It’s not productive or wholesome. It’s not an arbiter of righteous Armageddon. It’s indiscriminate. It’s isolating. Live alone. Or the other, also alone.

Morbid, I know.

It’s hard not to be buoyed by bleakness, dragged down into darkness.

Egregiously checking the news feed, I’m constantly furious at the lack of new information in the last ten minutes. Seems as good an excuse as any for putting off doing taxes, for wearing the same jeans for a week, the same flannel for two, for wasting time on Amazon, filling a fantasy cart I’ll never finance.

Prime Delivery is an anagram of Evil Remedy, RIP.

Refresh the page, see if they’re selling it online yet. The jigsaw puzzle supply chain is broken. You can tell you’re in the Bay Area because there’s a run on kale, none left in northern California.

Cannabis delivery and condo construction remain essential services. Graffiti and telephone pole post-its call for rent strikes, for eating the rich. Carnivorous.

The sun shines, the buds and blossoms respond. The breeze now carries pollen, the cruel irony of spring. Sometimes a sneeze is just a sneeze, to quote the Sigmund.

And the crows cackle, ready to usurp us. Intelligent, tool users, highly mobile, social, scavengers. Back to the birds, ancestors of some Jurassic leviathan. History comes full circle.

People grasp for reassurances, desperate for hope. The human spirit, they say, is indomitable, indefatigable. “What silver lining shall we imagine this day?” we intone as we brew the last of our coffee. Teatime, anyone? 

Instagram filters enhance the shimmering semi-affluence of the work-from-home crowd. The mundanity of labor somehow shareable now that it takes place in our apartments. Sourdough starters, streaming singer-songwriters—these are the new sports.

“Why hadn’t we been video chatting before?” we keep asking.

Netflix is now the reminder of our distant past, prophesying from behind the veil of cinematography and cgi: Remember when we used to touch our faces? Use public spaces? Greet a friend or a foe with a handshake? Such recklessness.

The smallest elements of daily life, subverted, gray out the things we always knew but refused to admit to ourselves. This fog of dystopia obscuring the truth that it was always inhuman to incarcerate the non-violent, to leave unhoused the homeless, to throttle internet speeds, to share serving utensils at the hot food bar at Whole Foods, to turn all those emails into meetings.

The pressure of working from home was too much at first. I know I’m lucky, privileged. It’s like a celebrity complaining about the attention they receive. It’s the bed we made, why can’t we just sleep in it without complaining?

I couldn’t sleep, though. Literally. I pressed through, working or trying to work as if nothing were wrong, terrified of taking time off only to catch the plague and have no days left. Dreading, staring at a blue-black ceiling, wrapping consciousness with a mist of malevolence only to drift off into a watercolor haze of incomplete thoughts just moments before the alarm blazes.

In a fleeting respite, I dreamt I stepped into a record store.

I softly placed my hands over a water damaged album cover, feeling the rippling cardboard printed with the visage of a musical deity. Solemnly square and almost as large as life, it was just thick and heavy enough to be real. The sleek disc inside—neigh-imperceptibly carved with the physical imprint of 42 minutes of sound—slid easily from its jacket. Black shellac reflected the flourescent overhead bulbs, whipping a rainbow fairy across the opposing wall. Did anyone else spy that ephemeral spectrum of light?

I spun the record lightly, my smallest finger the axis around which it revolved, and the air around me reverberated with each song at once.

The spectre was aural, vibrant, cacophonous. We held our breath, tempest hoards.

And I flailed for the phone alarm, killing the buzz. Snoozed for nine more minutes, woke up with just the fading memory. We can’t have nice things, anymore. There are no record stores, only carnivores.

But then I knew: this taker of things, this stealer of souls, this instigator of isolation—even in sleeplessness it cannot stop the dreams.