In the days before the baby shower we were hosting on March 14, we started receiving reverse RSVPs. Some of the 40 friends and family who had planned to attend changed their plans.
Shaky voicemails wondered whether we might cancel, some concerned for everyone’s health and safety, others perhaps wanting off the hook from making their own decisions. Sometimes my view of human nature veers toward darkness.
Anyway, the show went on. After all, we had plenty of toilet paper and hand sanitizer. Some of our guests brought their own. Hand sanitizer, that is.
As each guest arrived, we did a strange dance, negotiating in body language from hug to elbow bump to foot-five. We altered or abandoned the traditional baby shower games that would have involved touching or even passing objects hand-to-hand.
Still, love filled the room, in keeping with the occasion. Conversation remained cheerful, though we sometimes heard worried murmurs. As the shower wound down, our closest friends and family couldn’t help but hug.
The next day, the Ides of March, with Val’s gym closed, she invited her Zumba instructor to lead class on Facebook Live from our living room. When five classmates showed up at our door, I ventured out into the rainy morning.
My stops included a bookstore for a copy of Hanif Abdurraqib’s “Go Ahead in the Rain: Notes to A Tribe Called Quest” and then a walk through the mist past the masked faces, their eyes suspicious of my uncovered mouth and nose, to Cheesecake Factory. There, a Mexican soccer match with no fans in the stands played live on TV.
All the men in the restaurant watched, knowing this could be our last look at live sports for who knew how long. Most, including me, had no idea which teams were playing or any of the players’ names. But it was sports. Live. So we watched.
Afterward, I hit a neighborhood bar our daughter had recommended. The door was locked. Through the windows I could see a few people having a silly string fight. The notice of closure taped to the window mentioned local government’s unofficial reaction to Coronavirus, effective about the time I’d left Cheesecake Factory. I started back to my car.
“Hey,” I heard over my shoulder, “yawanna drink?”
Chasing me through the drizzle was a woman so cartoonishly silicon-and-collagen-inflated that I wondered if she was real at all. “We’re officially closed, but we just finished our staff meeting and decided any customers who stopped by would get free drinks.”
Sold. An NCAA Tournament game from about 15 years ago played silently on the TV. But my attention stayed with the friendly bar owners and employees. We made our connections – talks of travel and sports and ways the neighborhood had changed – and had a few laughs. Soon after Val texted me the all clear, I slipped a twenty onto the bar and stepped out.
“Hey,” I heard over my shoulder. She was running toward me again, this time clutching the twenty. “We can’t take this.”
“You sure?” She nodded yes and held out the bill.
“OK,” I said. “I’ll spend it here whenever this Coronavirus crisis is over.”
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Series starts at Coronavirus Diary: Introduction
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