I still remember the first time I saw one of my neighbors start ordering for home. We saw each other near our mailboxes and had a look at the mutual understanding. It was so nice to see another person.
A few years ago I was concerned with another drastic life change following a bed bug outbreak. I had the agony of disinfecting, checking and rechecking everything that I hadn’t spread the bugs and avoiding other people entirely. As a result, I felt isolated from pretty much everyone.
The start of this pandemic felt like a common bed bug (just don’t try to imagine that). Everyone had similar fights and we hit it off.
I can’t say exactly when the mentality changed from “we’re all together” to “stop making stupid decisions”, but I do remember the day when an access point to Lake Jordan was so crowded that I hit the sand could hardly see. I passed hordes of teenagers who were not wearing masks and felt their eyes as I wore mine. You could definitely see the judgment in my own eyes.
Now I’ve had friends and family test positive for COVID-19. I will leave my seat and have to pass a neighbor who is not wearing a mask immediately. I can feel my own mind snap to judge the other person even though we’re far enough apart that it shouldn’t matter. I glare at people who are all dressed, provided they go to a bar when maybe they just wanted to look good. I even had a feeling in my stomach when I saw crowded scenes in movies.
We have all looked at the effects of COVID-19, but some of us have had small raindrops while others experienced hurricanes. We feel comfortable with different levels of community immersion, which sometimes cycle back and forth depending on the possible exposure. I’m writing the quarantined piece at home this week while you may be reading it in public. We are Not All in all, and given the ongoing conflict over wearing masks and vaccines, I don’t think we will ever be.
If there is one thing that these experiences have taught me, it is that it is easier to blame than empathize. Even someone who never puts their suitcase on the floor of a hotel room can get bed bugs. Even someone who follows health guidelines can test positive for COVID-19. We quickly point our fingers at other gears in the machine while we should wonder why the machine is doing this.
So good night, sleep well – and don’t let the bed bugs bite.
(PS – Is there a topic you want to read about? Email me at email@example.com.)
Rachel Horowitz lives in Chatham County and works in Pittsboro. She is a graduate of UNC-Chapel Hill’s Hussman School of Journalism and Media and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.