I look around at my surroundings, but what is it that I truly see? Faces wearing masks? Ear loop covered sadness? At least we can pretend behind our disguises. I could be wrong. There could be lips turned upward in a smile? How would I know? Do I even care anymore? Do I hide it from my timeline? Do I delete it? Do I turn the settings to private? Do I turn the comments off? I buy something at the store. I squint at the person that rings me up. We speak a filtered, strange English in the States now. "What did you say?" Eyebrows raise. Mumble, bumble, garble, barble. Hiss, hass, blah, bloo. Shouting does not help decipher this foreign tongue. Where's self check out? And spearmint gum. My glasses fog up when I breathe. I remind myself that I'm saving the world by doing this, but I'm already over it. Salvation is not worth this price. I realize something. How long have my eyes been this cloudy? The misty glaze slowly grows, with each breath, until I can no longer see. The haze slowly evaporates depending on my environment. Sometimes it doesn't. I once was blind, but now I see. Temporarily, but one day, maybe forever? I'll cross my fingers. I'd love to bite into a cold Reese cup right now. We have been wearing face coverings for years. Halloween is all year long, and the masks are more visible. In a pandemic, we have a visual cue. Facial recognition has always existed. Somebody will say they saw you. They will say that they did not speak because they did not know if it was you. Because of the masks, yeah, right! These people are liars! They will walk past you. Avoid you. Ignore you. Because of something as simple as a piece of cloth? No, because you are you! I have committed this act, but I avoid certain avatars out of a surplus of disconnect. I still have sympathy. Empathy. Compassion. Is my virus rooted deeper than a hazardous petri dish in the CDC's basement? If the end result is our new, current world state, we should have been wearing face masks for years, pandemic or not! It would make it easier for the fake people to breathe. Make it easier for the real people to remain cloaked. I cough into my hands and rub my eyes. Oh no, what have I done? We give people their one view of the day. We decide whether we want to interact with them. People are selfish creatures. You could gift them an original Picasso, and they'd complain about the frame you chose. I open mouth blink at these people. Should I scroll or give them two minutes of my life? We look at the comment button. We hesitate. The share button. They're not worth that, are they? The like button, an inevitable thumbs up! Eh, maybe the easiest solution? Do I push the heart tab? The laughing face? The surprised expression? The angry face? The teary eyed yellow blob? What was the last emoticon I used? A yellow orb wearing sunglasses. I guess I'll keep scrolling. I will hide behind my disguise while I can. After that, back to another new normal. Nothing has changed. I need a road trip. I want a footlong meatball sub. Our masks have patterns now. Messages. Advertisements. As if our bullhorns weren't loud enough! The consumer should get paid by whoever's brand we wear. Yeah, right, not in this life! Caste systems still exist. Life is backwards. We pay them. We advertise for free. We are walking billboards. We are the guy constantly spinning the sign by the roadside. We sell ourselves cheap, yet let's be honest, Darth Vader had the greatest mask of all time, and he was a bad guy. We make bad guys look so cool, yet they always lose in the long run. Why? Seems like a waste of a storyline. I karate chop the air. I roundhouse kick an invisible foe. The world is now a dojo, and everyone is a black belt ninja assassin. Well, maybe not everyone. Illusions of grandeur keep some people alive. Most people think they are untouchable. Until somebody pulls out a .357 magnum. Or a fully gassed chainsaw. Or the camera on their cell phone. Or a blowgun and tranquilizer darts. Or unleashes a grizzly bear. Or an angry rhino. Or a swarm of murdering death hornets. Or sneezes and coughs in your six foot invisible bubble. We have stopped evolving. I'll gladly crawl back into the mud puddle from whence I came. Just give me a screen and free wi-fi. And socks. My feet ache and are cold. I miss breathing virgin air. I miss high-fives. I miss ten second hugs from family and friends. Hugs without wearing a hazmat suit. Hugs without hosing yourself in napalm. Hearts were meant to connect. Send a request first though! Fill out this release form. Let's make this legal before I make my move. Seduction is a love crime. Skin color is an instant hate crime. We are all victims in a sea of serial killers and rapists. We have checklists. Affidavits to sign. Background checks. Dating apps. Empty bars. Maxed out prisons. Half-full churches. Do I swipe left or right? Today, we tiptoe when we used to dance. We prance instead of grind. Men used to light women's cigarettes without asking. In return, if they wanted to, the women blew smoke back into the man's face. A universal sign. Wear a body camera if you want to, I'll take my acts of love offline. I'll cover my webcam with a dirty sock. We are all voyeurs, and to think, I used to crunch ice with my teeth. I want to be an astronaut. Not to feel weightless, but to see how small our planet truly is in the grand scheme. To see Earth from afar. To be able to debate if I feel like coming back. To see if I truly miss anything from ground zero. Everyone's spirit has been withdrawn. Is gravity worth this pain I feel? I miss simplicity. Quarter slot arcade games. The toy isle. Hanging out at the mall. Love letters. My green Honda Accord and twelve inch subwoofers. Hanging out on the high school wall with my senior Boyz, with a z. Being young. Income taxes should be illegal. I guess I'll start cooking meth. You only get one shot. Like a kid and chickenpox. My mom used to Clorox my white undershirts. She would douse each one. Heavy wash them. Like my life depended on it. The armpits were stained yellow. Like dehydrated urine. She was trying to help me. Her efforts were in vain. My wet pits were a formidable foe. God bless her. If my body started to sweat that day, I knew I was going to smell like a public pool in the middle of July. Polo Sport versus Bleach. Why did I voice this memory? Where did it come from? I'm going to make funnel cakes this weekend. I realize something. Life is a pandemic, and there is only one cure. Us. We are the vaccine, but we are also the carriers. We are the host and the parasite. We are endless seeds blowing where the wind carries us. We are flowers slowly turning into beautiful weeds. Wilting so we can live next season. A paradox. I put my hand on my forehead. I hard swallow. I have a headache. I feel feverish. My jaws ache. Quarantine me for two weeks? Sounds great! How about forever? Thank you! Just give me Q-tips, toothpaste, toilet paper, and M&Ms. Wait! There's no toilet paper? Ohm, okay? I really want to be an astronaut. Have I mentioned that yet? From my angle, maybe that one sentence will reach you. That one thought. That one song you cannot stop repeating. You will feel a warm wave. You will attach it to your soul. You will smile when you think of it. It turns your brain on without consent. I am now a public enemy, yet who can pass up a free smile? A smile you earned? Not me. Put it in the papers. This moment deserves to be savored and not socially distanced. You can come dance in my bubble, baby! One can slow dance alone, true! Like a high school reject. My favorite candy is red starburst. Slow dancing with someone else is more fun. Two things are required. Fingertips crawling toward denim covered, firm butt cheeks, and someone playing with the back of your hair. Red, chewy starburst, I tell you. Red. Have you ever said life sucks? Played out scenes from your personal fantasy? Made out with the back of your hand, or a mirrored image of yourself? Have you stood on the razor's edge? If you turned around from it, you made an infinite decision. You'd rather continue to suffer than die. Epiphany. Perception. Bravery? I'd die for a triple chocolate brownie right now. Am I high? Or low? Is this growth? Strength? Perseverance? Am I in-between? I need more black tank-tops. Where's the nearest Walmart? What is life like to me? Life is like smoking a cigarette outside a hospital entrance. Like being stuck in a crowded grocery isle with ice cream in your cart. They say get ice cream last, but what happens if there is only one tub left? I live around savages, starving vultures that are too lazy to circle the air. Life is like cutting a tag off of a mattress while in the store. Like slapping the snout of a happy dolphin. Like waiting in a busy drive-thru line on your thirty minute lunch break. Like purposefully hitting someone else's mailbox with a baseball bat. Like naming your personal wifi connection 'FBI Surveillance Van' and forgetting the password so you cannot delete it so you try to forget it but each time you go to connect to your other wifi hot spot it pops up and gives you instant paranoia like you are on a most wanted terrorist list. There's a white van somewhere. I have been bugged. I drive around my block. I come back home and think. Am I a terrorist? A terrorist mediating between the living and the dead? A terrorist with a pen instead of a trigger? My jacket is from J-Crew. It's lined with cashmere and merino wool. Tailored with loving care. Packaged with loving care. Not C-4 explosives. Last year, I felt like this. It hits me occasionally. I think of that one time. Everybody has that 'one time'. I was slow driving in a blizzard. I could not see the lines on the highway. Nobody was around for miles. The tires gripped the slick. My passenger grasped her seat the entire trip. She smiled at my jokes. She found courage to laugh at them. The car slid, and she puckered up. Her butt cheeks, not her lips. She pushed her imaginary brake. Her eyes widened in excited fear. It turned us on. Not the idea of death, but the uncertain fear of losing control. I want to lose control with her. In a cold car. A hot house. A lukewarm bed. The night made it feel colder than it was. My eyes were tired. The windshield wipers swayed left to right. Right to left. Left to right. Right to left. Rubbing the glass. Dragging the frozen precipitation. Brushing my icy, flaked view. My personal screen. I placed my hand in her lap. She unlatched her kneecaps. Where's a notary when I need one? Winter is my soulmate. The untouched patches of white take me far from here. A tea kettle's whistle. I warm myself by an inside fireplace. I look down at my foot. The nail on my big toe is turning black. It is going to fall off. This bothers me. The internet says trauma. I snicker. What does the internet know about trauma? Artificial intelligence is like a side girl. I look into the fire. I forget about my winter wonderland. All I can think about is how long it will take for my new toenail to come in. I shake my head. I take a deep breath. The fire crackles. The blizzard beats against the house. A cold nosed kiss. Warm tongues. Red cheek bones. Her eyes in a dimly lit room. The storm blows snow against the windows. Hot chocolate with marshmallows. I've never felt more at peace, except for my toe. I notice it out of the corner of my eye. I feel sorry for it. I hide it from her, like an affair. Is this what my life has come to? I find myself getting lost even though I know where I'm going. Sometimes, I do it on purpose. Sometimes, it just happens. I make a grocery list. I still forget something. My spiral begins again, even though I know it begun some time ago. I remember what I forgot as I unload my purchases at home. I hope my ice cream hasn't melted yet. Have I mentioned that I want to be an astronaut? A friend texts me. I immediately respond. It takes an entire day for them to respond back. I call my therapist then my dad. I boil a couple of eggs. Turn bread into toast. Spread strawberry preserves over it. I sit down to eat and write. My phone whistles at me. My friend has sent me back to back messages. I scoff and continue with my morning. I forgot to hit the brew button on the coffee pot. I cuss to myself. I get up and hit the button. Another countless button. Instead of counting steps, maybe we should count how many buttons we push in the span of one day. I continue to ignore the phone. I act as though it has offended me. I treat it like a bastard. A lifeless machine. Wires. Batteries. Plastic. I wonder if they have made a woman robot yet? I look down at my big toe again. How many buttons have I hit so far today? The idea of not having a toenail in place after this one falls off continues to unnerve me, so I consider deleting all my social media accounts. I gaze at the dying cuticle. This is my cataclysm. What do I do? I forgot to buy dental floss. I cuss again. How far is outer space from here? I'd restart this year over from February just so my toenail would not fall off. Before Covid was a headline. This is going to prod my brain each time I step. Each time I push a button. Each time I hit like. Each time I @ tag somebody. I forgot hot dogs and tampons too. Why make a list? They say the regeneration process is going to last months. Why are toenails so complicated? Buttons. Buttons everywhere. There are spots on my bananas. Not my banana, but the kitchen's bananas. Am I bananas? I fixate on the ending of my world. I dry swallow a peach Xanax. It must be hard being a foot, much less a toe. I accept my fate. In an hour or so, things will be better. I preheat the oven. I guess I'll eat some potato skins. Instantaneous impulsivity! I change my mind. I grab my keys. I'm going to town to buy fresh doughnuts. I slip sandals on because of my toe. I change my mind and put on shoes. I must keep the beast hidden. I forgot my wallet. I do not realize this until I place my order. I cuss out loud. It's muffled because of my mask, so no one twists the facts or gets offended. Maybe I should hashtag this moment? Or start a cause? Or protest in the streets? Or defund this bakery? Turn a moment into a movement. The Xanax begins to kick in. I just realized Xanax is a palindrome! I no longer care. I drive home. I sing to my playlist. I walk inside my house and lock the door. I go to the oven. I never turned it off. I put the potato skins on a cookie sheet and bake them. Life is good. Until my toenail finally falls off. I'll cross that bridge when I get there. I have a couple of prescription refills left. No need to worry now. I feel my back pocket. My wallet was there the entire time. I shake my head. I'm glad I didn't set the bakery on fire. I accept my fate for the third time that day. I cuss while putting chapstick on my lips. The flavor is vanilla bean. I pop a throat lozenge into my mouth. My life is the other way around, even when it's not. The order has changed. Conversely, I exist. I slow dance with myself to my playlist. The potato skins smell delightful. Like a woman's shoulder bone after a shower. Have I mentioned that I want to be an astronaut? Or maybe I'm already one and do not know it. Maybe I crashed landed onto Earth? Where is my spacecraft then? Hmm! Who knows? Maybe I can go back home one day! Just maybe! Red starburst are the best, I tell you! Red!
– Push Play for personal playlist jam – Grab those earbuds –
– In love with this band – Check them out –
– Go take a slow dance break with yourself or partner up for a minute or two –
– You deserve it! –
– I cut more rug this week than I have in the past month – Thank you, Cannons! –
– Feel Free to Share this post – Hit that button – It’s just one more to add to your daily mix! –