March 17th, 2020: Day 1 of my Absolute, Soon-to-Be Government-Mandated Quarantine//Day 7 of my School’s Earlier, Precautionary One.
Photography by Ami J. Sanghvi.
I’m not entirely sure where I am, or how I even got here, and I’m also not quite sure who I’ll be when this is all over.
I mean, of course I understand the technicalities of it all. We have a new “plague” (used loosely), the world is going on lock-down, things are mildly apocalyptic, astrology has never been more correct about anything in my lifetime, people are panicking…
And JcPenney is honest-to-God sending me casual COVID-19 emails…
It’s not actually supposed to rain in L.A…
At least not this much.
Yet, starting on the day my school closed down all in-person things and declared a campus quarantine, it’s rained every single day.
Every single fucking day for the past seven days.
This is a pretty big deal.
Here, in the City of Angels, we don’t really know what to do with rain. Long-time residents of the area can hardly handle precipitation even on days when there isn’t a modern-day “plague” present, and the rest of us share their sentiment of shock literally anytime the water comes tumbling down from the heavens. Usually, we love it, welcome it, even…
But not so much this week.
This is Los Angeles, not New York; we need the sun to survive, especially on the toughest of days. Many of us didn’t even recognize the rain when it first arrived — the sound was so unfamiliar to us that our first instinct was to check around our homes for issues instead of simply cracking open the blinds and peeking outside.
Almost everyone I know is quite sick of this rain, and starting to wilt from it, despite the way we generally celebrate it as a break from the constant sunshine that dominates Los Angeles far more often than not. But, things are different now — we need the sun this week more than ever.
However, the Universe had other plans for us. Rather than returning our warm weather, it brought back winter.
My friend even scraped frost off her windshield this morning.
About half of my loved ones work in those industries which don’t seem to be closing down; two people I know are already sick. I suppose that’s one of the drawbacks to knowing people all over the country and the world.
One of these is a friend, a friend who is married to another friend. The first friend is more casual nowadays — I kind of blew it a few years ago when I freaked out on both her and her still-fiancee at the time, nervous because she shared several common traits with a former friend of ours whose one and only purpose in life was destroying other people. I didn’t understand logic back then — only trauma.
These days, I juggle a little bit of both.
The other person is an elderly lady in Mumbai, or maybe Los Angeles (who knows where anyone really is anymore) — one of the final elders we know who’s still going strong. Nevertheless, we don’t know what’s going to happen to her with this illness. I hate that if she doesn’t make it, she will not get to expire in her natural way. She will not be allowed to enjoy the benefits of passing at the time allotted, like three out of my four deceased grandparents were.
If she’s in India, then she’s all alone. Her family cannot get to her during all this panic, no matter how hard they might try.
I’m almost afraid to ask where she is these days, but I plan to suck it up and ask my mother this afternoon anyways. Maybe she is in Los Angeles with some of her family, after all.
I woke up this morning feeling a little overheated and carrying the discomfort of a mildly sore throat. My eyes felt ready to pop out of my head; they still kind of do.
I chose not to assume the worst, but to prepare for it anyways. I won’t be telling my parents much as to not needlessly concern them before I know anything about my current condition. I feel unsteady like this quite often, and last night was scary enough for them — why pile on to that? Chances are I’m just dehydrated, or stressed, or exhausted, or allergic…
I mean, I usually am at least one of these things, if not all four at once.
My parents — they just so happened to video-call me during one of the casual constricted-chest/lack-of-air attacks I’ve been having on rare occasion since early February. They were scared, and so they didn’t handle it as well as they might’ve under less sudden and nerve-wracking circumstances. They constantly tell me I don’t know how to be calm, but I was taking the pain and breathlessness in stride right up until I realized they absolutely weren’t.
But I don’t blame them.
How can I?
They were terrified. And I don’t like to admit it, but…
I am, too.
I came down from that into a notification on my phone a few hours later — the kind that potentially indicated the real, government-mandated quarantine is starting any day or moment now. The implications were such that I downed the full dosage of my take-as-needed anxiety pills, despite my usual attempts to avoid going near them at all. I then proceeded to slowly but surely rip the label off with trembling hands, and unintentionally meld and mold it into the sharpest and most solid paper arrowhead there ever was.
It’s interesting to me how every piece of paper of plastic I maul in the midst of anxiety always ends up being some type of a blade…
But that’s an observation for another time.
After that, I attempted, once again, to hit the restart button on my day. It was already 10 or 11 p.m. by then, but I’ve seen and been through enough in life already to know not to throw in the towel so easily, no matter how tempting it is to give up late in the game.
Thus, I did the most logical thing I could think of doing — I changed my clothes to rid myself of the bad, panicked energy from hours before, and ate a bowl of warm, steaming, homemade oatmeal, similar to how my mother made it throughout my childhood.
I then, in a moment of absolute desperation on my part, poured a glass of wine. The one good thing about this quarantine is how much of the edge its already taken off the otherwise stiff, stern, and proper personality I’ve inflicted upon myself since birth (apparently).
However, the Universe wasn’t quite done with me yet.
My stray cat friend chose to come by around then, as she does from time to time. I’ve been worried about her lately, and it was wonderful to discover she’s still around and as energetic as ever. Even my mom was inquiring about my newest feline friend since I hadn’t heard from her in a while.
We became friends, very good friends, rather quickly back in December. It’s at the point now where, despite her usual antics as the world’s biggest drama queen, she feels comfortable strutting up to my door and scratching at it for minutes at a time ranging anywhere from late night to very early morning.
I imagine that’s when she feels the safest coming to me; it’s strange that the most terrifying part of my day is the best part of hers.
However, last night was different. I couldn’t open the door for her, nor could I even give her water. I sat there in silence, curled up in a sad ball, dry sobbing as quietly as I possibly could, daring not to move with my TV on mute.
She scratched at my door for about seven minutes.
She must have so much faith in me if she tried for that long; it must’ve exhausted her.
But that’s exactly why I couldn’t be there for her last night, in the same way I can’t go to my brother and his girlfriend, nor to my parents, during this difficult time.
I’m a student; I’m around hundreds of people every single goddamn day.
I could very well be a carrier; to potentially inflict those germs on her when I have the option not to would be the cruelest thing of all.
My brother tried to soothe me over WhatsApp when I told him, telling me I did the right thing. He reminded me that she’s strong, sly, and resourceful, that she hasn’t needed me to be her best self, and that she still won’t in the coming days.
I hope he’s right, because the cat — she’s an absolute darling. Not letting her into my home in prior months, despite her best efforts to squeeze herself past my legs and through the doorway, has been one of the most emotional jarring things I’ve ever done…
And I’ve done some pretty emotionally jarring things in my time.
Nevertheless, I know I can’t take care of her in the way she craves. She doesn’t need me; she only desires my companionship. Therefore, I try to do right by her in the best way I know how. Right now, that’s doing my part to make sure I don’t get her sick.
Also, I call her Jasmine.
I rose early this morning. I was, and am still exhausted, as deep sleep is difficult to come by during such troubling times. Nonetheless, I knew it was critical to take out my trash one last time and gather my remaining packages while it was still possible (even if they are all still sitting in the item-quarantine corner I have set up in my apartment). There was something extremely unsettling about failing to do so before the inevitable, county-[/probably-soon-to-be-country-]wide shut down.
Especially since my brand new book was among this mail. Therefore, that was the last time I’ll leave my apartment during this quarantine for as long as I remain healthy…
Whether I like it or not.
The City of Angels is about to drop the other shoe any day, hour, or minute now; then, staying inside will no longer be a conscious choice, but rather, a legal requirement.
I have, of course, restricted myself to my apartment for the most part.
There was the grocery shopping and important errands the morning immediately after my school closed down, followed by one final errand two days later, as well as my first and last art gallery shift for God knows how long. I returned home on Saturday night from that final, mandatory outing and knew that was just about it. I would take out my trash and get my mail one final time on Tuesday (today), and that would likely be it until the quarantine was up…
Unless (as I mentioned before) I, too, fall ill with humanity’s latest plague.
Even as someone who loves staying indoors for [extremely-]extended periods of time, this anticipation of “what comes next” is a strange and unsettling feeling.
I am not a memoir writer, nor am I among those who journal. I am a poet, satirist, amateur critical theorist, and semi-dreamer whose feet almost always remain grounded in reality. Nevertheless, the world is changing at a rapid pace…
And so am I.
What else is there to do during this dreariest of times? I will write, paint, retrain in my mixed martial arts, perhaps even see if I can still dance, sure; for all I know, these little journal-blog entries will shape shift into fiction or, worse yet, more of that poetry I write which tends to rip me limb from fucking limb.
Regardless, I won’t be anywhere near whole until I know what’s going to happen next, until this haunting period of the unknown has passed.
The world has been growing deeply ominous for some time now. I’ve felt it all around me since 2016.
So have the astrologers.
They’ve been warning us for several years; the skies have been growing darker and heavier upon us, and we have chosen not to notice. The truth hurts too much — a modern-day human reckoning has been on the horizon since the horrifically unjust and unforgivable murder of Trayvon Martin back in 2013. It’s been preparing, manifesting…
I’m extremely afraid. This virus is a force to be grappled with, a manifestation to be weary of for sure; its effects may be detrimental to me, and worse yet, many of the people I love. We have no way of knowing what’s going to happen next.
But that’s not why I’m frightened.
I’m terrified of people. I’m terrified of the toilet paper hoarding, the grocery store violence, the absolute lack of consideration for the high-risk and less fortunate, the potential for looters and further madness, our general incompetence as a species, a global society, and a nation in regards to a pandemic that threatens to tear everything we are (and have ever been) to shreds…
Of course, I have my own trauma I’m dealing with. My past struggles with humanity as both a whole and on an individual basis definitely left a mark…
I mean, as some of you already know, I quite literally wrote the book on it.
I am not some expert anti-capitalist; my areas of social/political activism focus are, and always have been, intersectional feminism, racism, colonialism, and LGBTQ+ issues. Not only am I not well-versed in capitalism, but I also still do not fully fathom what I can and should do to support folks with disabilities, especially during this difficult time. They’re among the most heavily neglected of America’s disadvantaged groups, and that is not okay.
Furthermore, I’ve been paying attention, and I’ve been listening for a while now, but I’ve been doing so in the past few weeks more than ever before. I now recognize some semblance of the degree to which our nation’s infrastructure has failed us, and will likely continue to do so.
This virus doesn’t discriminate, but we, as a country, most certainly do. In turn, it is our most vulnerable who will suffer the most.
Astrology has been warning us for some time now about the current president of the United States, as well as the shift the entire world experienced on March 15th this year. My mind, body, and soul have known for some time now that we were on the verge of things falling apart, although I wasn’t entirely certain on the details until recently. I didn’t immediately understand why my oracle and tarot cards suddenly feel too heavy for me to bear, let alone look at most days, why I couldn’t even find healing, light, and reprieve at the temple a few weeks ago…
But I do now.
This period is supposed to open us up, both as individuals and as an overall society, to reanalyzing and improving all the foundations, structures, and practices we currently have in place as human beings. They’re simply not working anymore (if they ever did at all).
I believe this astrological forecast; the prediction sits beautifully in my heart.
Still, that does not change the facts; the United States, just like most of the world, is still in its waiting period. The areas which are ahead of us in this pandemic are great [and terrifying] predictions of what is to come, but the speed of development [combined with this looming presence of absolute uncertainty] is nearly too much to bear.
As my good friend so wisely put it last night, “It has to get worse before it gets better.”
Nevertheless, I will bear it: this fear and whatever comes after it, as I do and have everything else which has threatened to destroy me.
Something another friend helped me to realize recently is just how strange it is to expect and force everyone to be strong. Not everyone can be.
And honestly, that’s okay.
There is no light without dark, no good without evil, and, in turn, no strength without weakness.
Therefore, the strong will support the “weak” during this time. I do not know if I am as strong as everyone makes me out to be, but my shoulders are here, and I will carry as much weight upon them for those around me as I am able.
It’s the very least I can do when I’m fortunate enough to be surrounded by so much love.