I should call this something alliterative and dopey, like “Pands.” “Lugubrious in Lock-down,” “An Agoraphobic Apocalypse,” “Qualities of a Quagmire in Quarantine,” or some play on an old song like that joke hasn’t been made a million times before. It’s the End of the World as We Know It (And This Fucking Sucks).
Make up a litany of relatable anecdotes about not being able to put on pants or binge-watching sociopathic, redneck, polyandrists‘ behavior on Tiger King (Netflix), or just whine that without the motivating impetus of brunch mimosas with the gals I can’t be bothered to brush my teeth or hair. A year of wasted slobbery, with naught to show but a beer gut and an entirely new slate of anxiety-triggers ranging from running out of hand sanitizer in-between supply runs to accidentally glimpsing the nose and mouth of another human being.
But that hasn’t really been my experience of the past year, and it’s a weird feeling. In my pre-pandemic life I was, as the facetiously affectionate saying goes, a hot mess; I worked and played hard in equal measure. I hated talking about my feelings. I still hate this, actually. I have long-led my life according to the belief that there is no physical or emotional pain that cannot be quelled by the back-throat burn of a Jamo shot in a warmly lit bar, and let your problems spool away in furls of cigarette smoke; let your mind roam through the twists and dead-ends of the half-heard conversations of others. Placidly disconnected, anonymous on a patio where everyone knows your name. There is an agony in this sense of separation from others, but it is an agony I know: I learned my isolation early in life, and I learned it true.
So emerging from a year defined almost entirely by widespread isolation less anxious, less alcoholic, less gripped by trauma, and less oppressed by an overwhelming sense of loneliness and dread than I was going in is an irony I can acknowledge if not fully understand. It seems an obscene betrayal of those for whom the last year has been an insurmountable Tower of Babylon poking at the heavens with spires made of shit. But I’ve always been a contrarian, with all the thoughtless spite that word connotes. The world conspires to take away all I love (music, drinking in public, listening to music while drinking in public), well, take that, you stupid, stupid, stupid world, I was miserable to begin with! I will get my shit together just to rub your nose in it, cutesy mask and all! I started so numbed by anguish, soul so bloated with liquor and despair, that the whole of society suddenly matching my desultory and rudderless malaise ironically snapped me out of it, a boomerang of my own bullshit whipping back around to smack me right on my ass.
After all, what’s even the point of being an alcoholic if I can’t Kubrick-stare at everyone in a crowded bar and judge them for being happy, functional people? A drinking problem being a socially acceptable way to deal with misery all the sudden really takes the fun out of it, like your parents bumming your cigarettes or getting really into whatever awful music you were into at thirteen. Not that there was ever any fun in being a drunk, in being so emotionally iced-over and stunted that I’d rather get Clockwork Orange’d into viewing celebrities cooing some maudlin old pop song from their mansion gazebos on a never-ending loop than confront for a single solitary moment why I hurt so much, and what I can do about it? I already settled on the personality of a doomed and anguished drunk, damn it — I have the sunken eyes and gaunt cheekbones to prove it! I’m so used to it, it’s so normal.
But then normal went away. And all of the sudden I had so much time. I didn’t want it; I actively resisted it, but there it was, a vast lap of time and, unexpectedly, money, offering me something I had rarely had in my adult life: a reprieve. What to do? What to do with all this time, now that all my one thousand jobs are on permanent hiatus, but wonder, do I really want to be this way? Must I be this way? Cynical and drunk and boring myself on a dark porch, because they closed all the cafes?
Long story short, nah. Turns out I didn’t. I still drink; I still make bad decisions. But I’m dying less inside, and I ain’t dead. The bizarre upshot of a year with nothing to look forward to is that I find myself looking forward to things more than I ever have. Music in particular. I feel like I am hearing music again for the first time in years. I never thought there would be days, weeks, months on end where I couldn’t wander into an old familiar place and feel lonely in the old familiar way.
And I couldn’t have anticipated that for all that this past year was a Sarlacc pit of unremitting suck, having the time to get bored with my old familiar ways was truly a kick in the ass that was long overdue.
COVER IMAGE: Something or other: An empty pool is a lovely place to spend summer days when you have nowhere else to be. Or even if you do. Really, just spend every day at the pool. Work is for chumps.
Text/photographs: Kathrine Klimt.
Categories: Kat of Typographies