It’s been a helluva week.
My car broke down, and I had to walk the rest of the way to work. I passed a murky pool by some rundown apartments and saw a sunken Tonka dump truck barely visible in the green water. By the time I got halfway to my office it was getting dark. I was going to call my coworker Michael to come pick me up, but my phone had quit working so I had to seek refuge by the Redbox at the well-lit Walgreens.
Sonny Boy tells me he’s decided to quit college and sell weed for a living. I’m so mad I could just spit and I think I may be having a heart attack. I’m crying and I can’t breathe. I storm out wondering if this huge hissy fit will be the last time he sees me.
I go to the mall, but when I try to go to the bathroom, there are no stalls around the toilets. People are everywhere — talking, chatting, putting on makeup, fixing hair. No one is wearing a mask and they are touching everything. Everything!
Tragedy (my husband) and I are at the car repair shop. The garage is dark so we go down a dark corridor to try and find the owner. In the dim light that seeps through the greasy window, I notice that there are metal rings attached to the walls at regular intervals. From each ring hangs a chain. My eyes travel down the chain to the floor and at the end of each chain is a collar still attached to the rotting corpse of a dead dog. I try to keep Tragedy from seeing them, but they’re everywhere.
And those are just the dreams I remember.
I’ve had crazy dreams my whole life. In fact, I remember the first nightmare I ever had! (I wrote about it here.) And according to a recent article in Time, I’m not alone in this crazy dream world. Many many people are having vivid corona dreams. Stress plus sleeping more and deeper due to irregular work and homelife schedules combined with anxiety about social isolation, fear of the unknown, and concern for family and loved ones — well, that’s a recipe for having a few more dreams at best and tossing and turning your way through a barrage of nightmares at worst.
Right now, as Willie Nelson sang, the night life ain’t no good life, but it’s my life. Just for different reasons.
This past week in my real life, I had the pleasure of moderating a discussion with Senator Doug Jones for The Women’s Network of Birmingham, of which I am president this year, and the local chapter of Rotaract. He gave us an update of what’s going on in Washington and in Alabama to mitigate this pandemic and help those who are in need because of it. It was an interesting and informative update. But I’m still thinking about two things he said in particular.
First, he said that the COVID-19 pandemic is the new 9/11 in that time will be measured “before coronavirus” and “after coronavirus” and just like after 9/11, life as we knew it will never be the same again. Just go ahead and wrap your mind around that, friends. Things will never be exactly the same again.
And the second thing he did was call on the members of our two groups as community leaders to lead by example, because “your neighbor’s health depends on you, and your health depends on your neighbor’s.” Wear the mask. Wash your hands. Stay at home. That’s the only way to get this thing under control, Senator Jones said.
It’s an idea straight out of the Bible — love your neighbor as yourself. It’s second only to loving God. It’s all right there in black and white. No other commandment is greater than these.
What does Doug Jones have to do with dreams? you might be wondering about now. Stick with me. I’m getting there.
Unfortunately, in my real life, I keep seeing and hearing about a lot of things that I wish I had only dreamed.
The number of coronavirus cases in Alabama continues to rise every single day. I live in Jefferson County which has the second most cases. My parents live in Mobile County which has the most.
I read the news and the comments written by people who refuse to wear a mask. The Constitution says I don’t have to. These Constitutional scholars usually type in all caps and use bad grammar. (Note: The Constitution doesn’t say that at all.) They call on city officials who are trying to mitigate the pandemic to step down and threaten to vote them out. Any tiny sacrifice to possibly curb the spread of a rampant virus is too much for them. They can’t love their neighbors because they’re too busy loving themselves.
Saturday morning my social media feed was filled with reports of crowded bars and streets from the night before. Very few people were wearing masks. (In Birmingham, face coverings are required with a few exceptions.) The joint was shoulder-to-should. People were everywhere! Partying is fun. Loving your neighbor is boring. So is loving yourself enough to stay home.
People report being publicly shamed because they choose to wear masks or gloves in public. Snide comments just loud enough to be heard. Folks walking too close, standing too close, or refusing to yield shared space. I hate to even think about being coughed or spit on, but it’s happened. Shaming your neighbor is not loving your neighbor, and acting like an entitled jerk makes it really hard for your neighbor to not want to kick your ass, much less try to love you.
The COVID-19 has brought out a lot of good. We’ve seen people going above and beyond the call of duty in many heartwarming ways. But it’s also exposed the bad, ugly side as well — the side that I wish would disappear with the morning light like my bad dreams. But unless we all get right with doing our share to end the pandemic, unless we make the sacrifices that would seem like child’s play to our forefathers, unless we heed to call to love our neighbors as ourselves, this is one nightmare that we will never wake up from.