Monthly Archives: March 2020

Vulnerable

I hear on the news, “the vulnerable population,” and they mean me. I’m one of the old folks now. I don’t feel it, in my skin, in my body, that is. I feel the same as I always did, from the time I can remember. It’s good to know – reading books – that I’m not just this little voice, telling me to stand up straight, to look people in the eye, to feel ashamed of myself because I said something out of line. It’s good to know, for sure.

But I was talking about being one of “the vulnerable population.” We’ve been told to shelter in place by white men in expensive business suits (their eyes look glassed over, they’re preoccupied), so I expect that’s what we need to do. I have restless energy inside of me, and I read and read, and check Facebook to see if there’s anything else posted that I might have missed, and then I jump up and turn the cushions over on my easy chairs and straighten a couple of vases on a shelf. I dust. I use a brillo pad to clean under the grates on the stove. I feel accomplished, even if I am one of “the vulnerable population.”

I hate being in a category, a category of any kind, but especially this one. I sit in my wingback chair in my basement office and read, and then I put the book down and I think. I’ve always been a big thinker, but I don’t think I’ve ever been in the “vulnerable population” before, so I have to think about this now. What if I die in the next few weeks, if this scary virus comes to my house? What then?

I think about my good friend, Bonnie, who died last fall. Does she even know we’re going through this now, or is her being alive still, an illusion? I expect no one knows the answer to that question, although some people say they do. Is she missing this? I can visualize her sitting in her pretty house, reading a book, stopping from time to time to fill her cup with tea and to gaze out at her Japanese Tea House. What she’s missing now!

If I die during this “outbreak” (that’s the word the white men in expensive suits use), then I guess I’ll just have to accept that this is the end. This is how it all ended, for me. I’ll have to be ok with leaving a few places in the house that are not dusted, I’ll have to die without ever having jumped out of an airplane, that I will never see Milwaukee, again, or even take a walk around the Lake here in Oakland. There won’t be any time to be ok with it, or not. I’ll just have to go through whatever it is to go through and be ok, or not. That will have to be ok.

I expect I’ll have to be ok with it when the curtain of consciousness drops, and that’s all there is.

I make a few phone calls. I make a few phone calls to other members of the “vulnerable population,” like me. I know quite a few interesting people, so they’re not bored by being ordered to be at home, either. They’re reading and doing crossword puzzles and jigsaw puzzles and trying to take it all in, too. Maybe they get up to dust another shelf in the house, too. I don’t know. A few of them are writing poetry, or working on a novel, or maybe a memoir. Even if they’re “vulnerable”, they’re interesting, at least to me.

Today the dog next door, a Burmese Mountain Dog, beautiful, runs into my house, sniffing, her big nose lifted into the air, and then she runs out again. Is she vulnerable, too? My neighbors, two quiet young people – they’re not “vulnerable,” at least no one has told them they are, or they don’t believe they are (I was like that once, too), stand in their front yard and talk to me for a few minutes. Are they looking at me, thinking “she’s one of the vulnerable ones?”

I expect the point of this to me is that I’ve always been vulnerable, and you have, too. It’s just that we don’t think about it. We don’t have time to think about it, for the most part, until we’re right up against it, which I don’t believe I am yet, do you?