Daisy Alioto on the Delta variant.
In case you missed it, last week there was a whole discourse about whether the vibes are off in NYC. I don’t have the energy to dig up the original tweet (for reasons that will become clear shortly) but here’s a sampling of the follow up:
I currently have coronavirus. But not in a Leslie Jamison single parenting type way, more like in a “I got the Pfizer vaccine at a CVS in Ossining while Satellites by DMB played” type way. Like in a “I think I caught the Delta variant on a Delta flight to Portland” type way. When I went to get tested, the test center was next to Subway so the examining room smelled like bread and when I asked the nurse whether it always smells like that she said, “I am fighting demons every day.” It’s a breakthrough case: my immune system is not being called out, it’s being called in.
Last week, as athletes dropped out of the Tokyo Olympics, I sat in an empty conference room and watched the silhouette of a man on a boom lift taking down a Naomi Osaka Sweetgreen billboard while he played (I Can't Get No) Satisfaction from an unseen speaker. I thought huh, that’s a little on the nose.
The vibes are off with my succulent, the succulent that my husband impulse-bought at Trader Joe’s on his way to propose to me one week before the first lockdown. While I was in Portland, he texted me a photo of the blackened plant with 24 crying emojis. Today I took the only piece of the succulent that was still green and planted it in new soil that I ordered on Amazon, marveling at the miracle and horror that is overnight Prime. I sprayed the replanted cutting with water. I never wanted to be responsible for this metaphor.
I wear a mask while I tend to the succulent because my husband isn’t yet symptomatic and may never be. It is the typical marriage story, you wake up and think “who are you and how did you get into my apartment” and then you go downstairs and look in the mirror and say the same thing.
Last week, I had the sensation that things were hurtling toward some sort of conclusion. I had a phrase stuck in my head, “What’s the alternative?” It’s a phrase I heard a lot in spring 2020 until people didn’t bother with rhetorical questions anymore.
I went to dinner with a friend and we talked about climate anxiety. I said of course the rational thing is to despair. But just like all marriages end in either divorce or death, we can only snuff ourselves out or keep living. Suddenly compartmentalization, an emotional feat I was never able to manage in my romantic life, doesn’t seem so hard after all. I mean, what’s the alternative? (The restaurant had candles along the wall and I felt a prick of heat against my bare back while we ate and realized a tall candle was splattering me with wax and had been for a while.)
When we say “the vibes are off” maybe we mean our sense of the future. Or the heat. The abundance of flesh. The pontification about the abundance of flesh in the New York Times. When we say “the vibes are off” maybe it’s because we can’t shake the sensation that one of the men from our past might rise from the grave and say, “It’s you, it’s always been you.” (No? Just me?)
The succulent died because we stayed away from home too long. Arrived in Brooklyn from upstate, threw parties and then left again. “Is this your stuff?” asked one of our guests gesturing to the maneki-neko cat on the mantle. “No, just the things in the suitcase under the bed.”
There must have been some resignation in my response to the positive test. “You’re not surprised,” the doctor said. “You knew.” I shrugged. All the signs were there, it wasn’t the end of my world.
When we say we don’t want to be alive for the end of the world, what we mean is that we don’t want to be alive for the end of our world. But it’s ending every day in all the usual ways.