Back in November, I bought my sister and I tickets for a show we’d been dreaming about since the moment it was announced, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child on Broadway. I bought them for March 11, a random date in her spring break.
It turned out to be the last day life was normal.
We almost didn’t go-we left on a Tuesday, and the Sunday and Monday before I fretted. Not because I was scared-NYC had only had one known case at that point, and it seemed contained-but because of other people’s reactions. They were loosely saying to avoid unnecessary travel, and I did not want to seem irresponsible. I was also afraid my friends would be afraid to hang out with me when I got back.
But this play was a big deal to both my sister and I was encouraged by others to go, assured by friends that they would hang out with me, I just should be more careful. So we did, armed with gloves and wipes and hand sanitizer. Those were the last days of normalcy-we went to the Met, we met a friend of mine for dinner, we hit up the High Line and didn’t think twice if someone came within six feet of us. The theater was a bit different-they stopped refills on drinks (to me, this was not a big deal) and the actors were not allowed to take pictures or sign playbills (this was a BIG deal).
I hung around the theater after to talk to some people involved-an usher and a couple of the actors. Maybe they were hiding it, or just weren’t allowed to share with a random girl, but no one seemed concerned about the possibility of shows closing.
Twelve hours after we left, they announced that Broadway would go dark for at least a month.
As with everything these days, this is unprecedented.
I sat down Thursday evening and started writing a post about how lucky we were that we got the last show, how sad I was for the actors and ushers and bartenders at the theater, but how even when the literal show does not go on the show of life must.
It’s now the next Thursday, and that is not what I am writing.
Maybe it was denial, maybe it was arrogance-but I did not, until it actually happened, think that this was going to affect my life on the scale that it has. it also seems like the sum of my experience. I am a healthy white American. And as healthy white American, I read a lot of news that never affects my day-to-day life. As with most other things-fires in Australia, hurricanes in Puerto Rico-I thought I’d be praying for it from the comfort of my church. I thought I’d be discussing it with my coworkers over our breaks and be saying how awful it is for the people in places that weren’t where we were. I thought the biggest part of it would be that I ALMOST did not get to see Harry Potter.
Spoiler alert-I was wrong. Everything that I do-my job, dance classes, all church activities-got systematically shut down Monday. My sister just had to go pack up her dorm room, and my brother cancelled a trip to Scotland where he was going to be a groomsmen in a friend’s wedding (I wanted to rage at the sky at these particular injustices). Where I live, schools, restaurants, and most stores are closed. I asked around to see if anyone needed childcare while schools were out, and no one took me up on it, because they were all already home and practicing social distancing. The show really has stopped, and we’re all six feet from each other in the wings.
I don’t know when I’m going back to work.
Does anyone? Can anyone?
I do not want to be sad because I am well and I have food. On Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, my first two levels are met. But I am grieving for the third level, love and belonging. Not just for me, but for society as a whole. I mean, my friendships are intact and will survive this. But there are many things that won’t-this season’s sports teams, prom dates, independent coffee shops or bookstores, places that rely on people gathering. I know it’s a good thing the show has stopped-we are doing it to protect each other. But I get so much joy out of people-people at my house, people in public, people at other people’s houses. I love socializing!
Instead of socializing, I’m at home, praying and reading and watching Instagram stories of other people at home. I’m sweeping our porch and stretching and getting sucked into an endless vacuum of news. I’m staring at a picture of my dog’s fluffy toes and venturing out to the beach or park. I’m consulting with others on what is safe to do. I am remembering last week when we dared to meet each other in groups and trying to wrap my head around the idea of an isolated, halted society. I have listened to “Sun’s Gonna Shine” by Steve Martin and Edie Brickell about twelve times.
Please send me more songs to listen to.