The atmosphere was strange this month. Maybe it’s the grey, rainy, cloudy, foggy an unmistakably colder and colder weather. Maybe it’s the fact that yet another holiday has been cancelled—Halloween is ridiculously hyped in Canada and this year, the few decorations found here and there are creepier than usual because they stand out. Maybe it’s the upcoming US elections and the nagging feeling that even if power changes hands, it may be too late for a change.
Plunging into fall and winter can be strangely comforting after long summer days spent outside, a bit like tucking yourself in and turning off the lights after a busy day. But this year, it just feels like plunging into the dark—literally and metaphorically.
It’s the little things that constantly remind me nothing is normal right now—rising grocery prices, empty streets with nowhere to go, masking up everywhere, lineups in front of stores, zero entertainment and culture available in person, news reports that invariably open with active case numbers and grim predictions, the inability to make plans and the constant urge from the three levels of government to “take the situation seriously” and “stop being selfish.”
Holy shit, we are taking the situation seriously. At this stage, I find these daily public admonishments insulting. Everyone made sacrifices this year. You can pick on a few idiots if you want (and still, context is lacking most of the time) but the vast majority of people isn’t trying to catching COVID for shit and giggles.
“What did you do today?” the stylish asked Mark when we took him to the barbershop last week.
“Huh… I was at school.”
She turned to me. “You’re sending him to SCHOOL? Schools should be SHUT DOWN! It’s because of schools that we get so many cases in Canada!”
I didn’t argue back because I didn’t want Mark to end up with half a haircut—who knows, we may go back to full shutdown soon and the April pandemic haircut I gave him wasn’t that great. I’m getting used to strangers picking on other strangers for doing things that were completely normal until this year, from eating out to going to school, from meeting relatives to sitting on a bench.
But fortunately, many little things still make me happy, usually anything that helps me escape for a few minutes or hours—focusing on a translation that doesn’t mention “the challenges caused by the global pandemic” (probably my most translated sentence in 2020), noticing the daily seasonal transition at the Experimental Farm, chatting with a friend or a stranger, watching a movie where people don’t have to stay six feet apart, hearing a good song on the radio.
I can still smile, laugh and relax once in a while. This alone is a relief—there’s nothing wrong with me, it’s a just a shitty year.
“We try not to talk about COVID with my friends at school because it’s killing our fun,” Mark told me the other day.
I wish I could do the same.