“You need to wear your f—–g mask. My mother is 87, asshole, and you could kill her,” Guy A says to Guy B as I enter the grocery store.
There was a time, not too long ago, when I would have stopped and watched this exchange, stunned, saddened, but like everyone else now, I barely raise my head.
I now live in the emotional flatlands. COVID, the CA fires (now the masks have dual functions), an insane president who will throw a tantrum if he loses the election like the baby he is, all the giant pickup trucks circulating in support of him with their Qanon freak flags flying, too many people in the backcountry, where I always went to get away, and now they’re out there too but it’s too hot to leave the house anyway, even if you head to 10,000 feet elevation, it’s still f-ing hot per the pending planetary death…
When you live in the emotional flatlands, nothing bothers you anymore.
I notice how stylish the masks have gotten. I am not even sure why, but this only further irritates me. I catch myself wondering if I should move on from the standard pleated sky blue surgical mask.
“Look at that one,” I think to myself. “She has a giant lotus over her mouth, and that guy has tiger teeth. She’s a what, a crocodile?” I am not Googling “stylish yet effective masks” when I get home. I am NOT.
Only one things is getting me through, giving me the tiniest of boosts everyday and no it’s not liter bottles of Pinot Grigo. It’s watermelon. It’s my heroin and I have to have it including driving around at 1:00 a.m. looking for a 24-hour grocery store (no luck), so I buy some awful watermelon candy (?) at the 7-11 on the way home.
In the midst of so much insanity, inanity…there is still watermelon. Cool, crisp watermelon that for a second transports me to the memory of what used to be a simple and pure summer day. Call it my meditation, my tiny little escape. I sit on the floor of my smoke filled house and crunch it, the sweetness, the WATER, the dogs on either side of me joining in, relishing the moment (and the watermelon) as much as I. For a few minutes there is no smoke, there are no fires, there is no pandemic, our post office isn’t getting gutted, our President isn’t Donald Trump. It’s me and the dogs hanging out on the living room floor on a hot summer day, listening to Loggins and Messina…Summer Breeze…Sometimes I cry.
I want one of the big seeded ones even if it takes a crane to get it up the stairs and into the refrigerator but oh, wait a minute! Of course, of f-ing course (!!!), the CA Gods of electricity just announced “rolling black-outs” so by the time I get home, like the witch at the end of the Wizard of Oz, everything in my refrigerator may be melting, melting…
Thinking about this, standing over the cardboard bin of beautiful watermelons, I blurt, “God dnmn it. The electricity could be out by the time I get this baby home.” Aside from one guy, all my fellow flatlanders ignore me. “Well, then just eat the whole damn thing,” the guy says, annoyed, lumbering off with his. I don’t even bother to look up to make eye contact (because this is all it is now and anyway, what’s the point?).
Once outside the store, I waddle back to my car carrying my 400 pound watermelon (at least this is how it feels because the air is filled with gritty smoke–of course! After all, it’s summer in California!). It hurts to inhale, even with a mask on. Gently lowering my big ass melon into the passenger seat, I quickly get in the driver’s side and slam the car door. Off comes the mask. Jesus! It’s so hot. I look up and see the woman parked in front of me also rushing to get into her car and like me, she tears her mask off once she’s in. She’s left something in her cart. What is that? A wallet? I hop out and rap on her window. Yeah, she left her wallet in the cart. She gets out, grabs it, and gets the hell back in her car. I head back to mine when I hear a voice behind me. I turn around.
“Oh yeah,” she says lowering the window. “Thanks.”
“Yeah, no worries,” is all I can muster as I hurl myself back into my car. This is all any of us can muster now that we’re living in the emotional flatlands.