“As we approach the third and fourth quarters of 2021, I think we can get back to a considerable degree of normality, but it’s going to depend on the uptake of the vaccine.”  — Dr. Anthony Fauci, address to the Association of American Medical Colleges, November 16, 2020

Hi, community. How are you? How have the last few months been? Is any of this real? Sometimes I feel like we’re trapped in a time warp, like time hasn’t moved since March. And now it’s all getting so much worse. A few days ago, Dr. Fauci said we will probably have to live in this semi-frozen state of being until fall 2021, depending on how the vaccine scenarios play out. We have to live with this unconscious/conscious threat of viral death bleeding over every social interaction, our jaunt to get coffee or gas, even when saying hi to the trees in a publicly traveled space.

I’ve been lonely. I’m almost always a bit lonely, but as the reality of winter sets in with the virus having descended on all parts of Maine, I feel more loneliness creeping in. How are we to make it through a pandemic winter? There was a time early in the pandemic when I told my mom I thought I would die if I couldn’t hug anyone for a whole year (yes, I’m a drama queen, and yes, it’s awesome). Now at least I hug others occasionally, both of us masked and with our heads turned away from each other. I feel that person’s body, their warm shoulders, the bulk of them, the flesh, the bones, the same body that could be infected with the virus, the same body that could feel no symptoms but pass the virus on to someone else, possibly leading to their death, or a lifetime of affected lungs and heart.

How has it been for you? What are you doing to prepare for this hundred-year-pandemic winter? In the Maine Coronavirus Community Assistance group on Facebook, people are in need just as there are always people in need in this unforgivably unequal country, but it’s worse now. People need teeth repaired, people need holiday gifts for their children, people need hats and coats, people need rent or hotel money, people are living in tents, people need internet and gas cards, people need jobs and pet food, tires, phone cards and Thanksgiving meals. Thanks to the extra government help, some people weren’t doing so bad at the start of the pandemic. They were laid off almost immediately, but because of the extra $600 per week in unemployment, they were actually enjoying themselves — feeling guilty about it, though — while having extended time off for the first time in their adult lives. I have friends who relished having more time with their children. But so many others haven’t done so well. A close friend who I’ve known since we were roommates at our beloved C-School (the former school for high school dropouts in Camden) was considered an “essential worker.” She had to keep working her life-devouring 12-days-in-a-row shifts, with no additional pay. Sometimes customers would come in, unmasked, waltz around the store asking my friend questions, then immediately afterwards dart across the street for a COVID test.

There is so much sadness. Rising domestic violence, rising overdoses, relationship confusion, loss, homelessness, hunger. I know people who have decided to try antidepressants and anti-anxiety medication to help cope. For some, there has actually been a bit of solace in feeling that our own daily apocalyptic woes — a kind of horror threading its way through every wonderfully grotesque display of wealth while the polar bears circle desperately for solid ground to walk on, while human children search through trash heaps for bits of valuable metal — are now shared by most people on the planet. But ultimately, that’s not of much comfort.

How are you preparing for the pandemic winter? I hope to write and receive snail mail. I hope to take cold walks with friends (if I still have any when this is all over). I hope my mom will keep letting me, masked, into her warm house.

Life has gone on and not gone on. A friend’s aunt died of the virus. Another friend thinks her dad died of it, but because it was so hard to get a test at that time, the family doesn’t know for sure. Still other friends brought a new child into the world. They held a baby-naming ceremony over Zoom, with grandparents calling in from Colorado, people in Philly, Tenants Harbor, the U.K., and a syrup-voiced rabbi strumming a guitar for this tiny person born in Montreal. There were poems and tears, and references to ancestors — real people who lived and died in other places, other times. Survival sings through people and passes itself on to others, despite everything.