There’s Something Strange Going On Tonight

It feels entirely unworthy, I feel, to characterize this moment we’re all in as “weird,” but that’s what I’ve found myself doing repeatedly, in multiple conversations with multiple people this week.

The context of the usage is, perhaps, instructive, though; I’ve used it in many cases as a response to people apologizing for not doing something, or really, not being able to do something, because they’re so emotionally overloaded and overwhelmed. “Look, I get it, everything’s weird right now, it’s okay,” I’d say, and they’d agree, and we’d take a second to silently think about just how weird everything actually is right now, how the world as we know it is, if not over, then certainly gone for now.

There are so many things that are weird. How quiet the streets are, for one thing. The complete lack of foot traffic outside the house that isn’t people walking their dogs is something that’s been causing me no end of low level anxiety all week, but that’s nothing compared with the one trip to the store I made midweek, where there was no-one around me and the restaurants had signs saying take-out only and the bars were closed. It felt unreal, unreasonable; there are usually so many people we have to step around each other carefully. Now this.

Or the mental pressure of it all — something that felt as if I was imagining it, until I saw a Twitter thread from a psychologist that suggested that we’re all in mourning and not accepting or even processing it, because we don’t think that the death of our lives as-was is actually a real thing. But that idea explains why my concentration has been poor, why I feel so tired, where my energy has gone. (Is it true? Is it a theory that holds water? I have no idea, but it feels true.)

The strangest, most unsettling thing of all is something so small, but something that very much messed with me until I realized what had happened. We live a block from a school, and that school’s bell is automated. It rings every day, even holidays, at 8:30, 8:40, 8:45, lunchtime, end of lunch, and then 3pm. Except, for three days this week, it didn’t, for whatever reason — maybe they were sanitizing the school and switched it off? The lack of that background noise, more than anything else, was a sign that things were weird.

Pavlov would be proud.

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