ALONE. TOGETHER.

# HOME LOSS CHANGE

That’s the public service
announcement.
Social. Distancing.
A contradiction in terms 
that now makes sense.
The most caring thing 
we can do 
is leave each other alone.

Doctors are not optimistic that
it will last.
Six months into the pandemic,
even those that did care about
others’ safety 
(shockingly, in this country that
can’t be taken for granted)
are beginning to cave.

We are social creatures
after all.

After all,
we are feeling lonely.

I spoke to my neighbors yesterday,
all three of them.
For the first time
in the two years I’ve lived here.
“Hi, my name is Carla. 
I’m sorry I’ve never said hi.”, 
I said.
“I’m sorry, too”, Ken answered. 
Now I know. His name is Ken.
He’s out in the yard a lot.
His housemate is really the
avid gardener.
Something we could have in common.
But I haven’t gone back out 
in the yard since,
haven’t learned 
the other guy’s name.
Old insecurities die hard 
after all
it seems.

I smile more at strangers 
in the street.
Many reciprocate.
We’re all going for walks
around the blocks.
On “Stay Healthy” streets that
the city has closed to cars
for this purpose.
It seems we’re all grateful,
craving the little freedom 
we can get.

So I’m discovering every street
in my neighborhood
for the first time.
Familiarity, my place.
All the roses!
Yards are overflowing with
flowers.
Of course we are gardening
more than ever now.
I heard that nurseries can’t
keep up with inventory,
same as home-improvement
stores.

What a joy, to smell all those
roses,
see all those
colors
swaying in the breeze.
Big clouds in blue sky.
I see them every day.
I walk the same streets
every day.

Green and blue and pink and
yellow,
bark and petal and bees and
scents.
Still refresh my mind
every day.

I don’t know if people are dating 
more or less now.
Domestic violence has gone up,
they say.
A lot of people can’t actually
stand being around each other
this much.
Depression and loneliness 
have gone up, too.
People can’t stand being alone
this much either.

Everyone I know is happily
coupled or actively dating.
My housemate, who had
planned to steer clear of
monogamy for a while, 
is now “COVID exclusive” 
with his latest fling. 
I’m glad he’s being responsible. 
He assured us he was pre-screening 
his dates for 
COVID risk. 
Apparently dental assistants
wear double PPE. 
So we approved her.

I’m zooming 
all over the place now.
Work meetings seem a lot more
relaxed
when my colleagues are
lounging on their couches,
stroking their cats, 
bookshelves and artwork their
backdrop.

I’m astonished, and grateful,
that all my tribes have adapted.
I’m not missing out on any of
my usual activities.
I go to dance class on zoom.
Glad I have a large living
room. 
Some cowards turn off 
their cameras, 
but I keep mine on, 
to keep our teacher motivated.
Both my meditation groups
meet on zoom.
One puts up a screensaver. 
Nevertheless, assuming that 
twenty other people might be
sitting dutifully 
holds me accountable. 
I don’t get up once. I swear.
Folks in the younger group 
keep their cameras on. 
That's some peer pressure! 
I spend the entire sit
wondering whether someone
has opened their eyes 
to check whether I 
have opened my eyes.
Awkward.
And touching.
That we’re all so willing to
show up and be seen.
I think people have missed
being seen.

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