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  • Harry Jensen

March 26, 2020

Today I am bored again, and the days seem longer than the weeks. I’ve been washing my hands and watching a documentary about the Zodiac Killer and playing cards and looking for jobs and fiddling on my computer and vaguely stretching and eating trail mix and washing my hands and trying to learn the Urdu and Amharic alphabets and washing my hands, of course, but I am feeling tired of the ways I entertain myself. That is why it is time to turn to others. I have about 10 minutes of video and 30 minutes of audio for the documentary I’m doing about Kidus. As my roommate, I wish he would be a pal and consent to the production, but for now I’ll settle for stealing quotes from secret microphones and paparazzing him as he grumbles from under a blanket. I told Kidus that he is akin to the great Ethiopian philosopher Zera Yacob, and I am his humble student begging him to record his works.

“Loser! Loser!” he explained kindly as he cocooned a blanket around his head. “You must wait until you have an ugly wife and children.”

On my walk today, I passed a ceramic vase rested atop a tree stump, and suddenly I desired my own gun with which I could indiscriminately blast household objects.

It was a nice day to take a walk with Maude, and I could feel myself swinging into a greasy green depression. There was a fair amount of people out, and I watched them criss-cross across the street to avoid one another as I did the same. I thought about Lucas’ research on the mathematics underlying a program that would keep robots from bumping into one another on a grid-like warehouse floor, and if he could provide any wisdom on how to best navigate a deadly suburban maze of sneezing joggers and sputtering skateboard babies. We were all bouncing around and veering past one another, and I avoided them like the thoughts and fears and dread that wander my mind.

By the time I reached Laurelhurst Park, I was stomping in the mud and ducking behind bushes to evade teetering grandmothers and listless husbands. Up until today I had a nearly flawless rap sheet as a social distance runner, but alas I was finally intercepted and thus personally besmirched by a couple of careless old gays with a floofy, unleashed mutt that rubbed Maude with a dose of their granola germs.

“She’s yours now!” said one of the men laughing. “Your dog has an Arnold Schwarzenegger neck.”

“Thank you,” I said with a hypochondriac’s hatred in my heart.

On the way home, I walked past a massive tree with five trunks shooting up like fingers into the gray sky. The fingers and the flat where they met looked like my left hand, even down to a protuberance mapping onto the lump in my wrist. I looked at the tree for a while as I listened Townes Van Zandt’s “Miss Carousel,” and watched the cherry blossoms float down from the trees around the nearby three-way intersection. This year, the petals are not pink but bone white, and it looked as if the cherry trees were brimming with little white skulls, flaking and settling facedown in heaps on the asphalt.

When I returned to the house, Atéha and T were talking about their vocational occupations. No one used to bother Atéha at the dispensary, but now everyone is rushing in, panicked, to stock up on the cannabis products that “even you out” or induce spontaneous happiness. T wants more than to be simply left alone.

“I want people to value me for my head,” she said.

Being unemployed since well before the Coronavirus bangered the world is sort of nice, in a greatly embarrassing way, a sort of learned helplessness. My philosophy degree proved insufficient in landing me a job as a delivery driver, and I don’t think anyone needs a fresh philosophical perspective to compliment the global moaning and banging of the death knell. Now we’re all unemployed and stressed to the nines.

I have often found myself wondering if my Dad would have survived this time in history, with his spine-snapping cancer and waylaid immune system. “Thank goodness Dad is already dead” is never an entirely joyous thought, but the circumstances have their redeemable perks, such as having a plague-proof Poppa urn and an ashy slush fund to while away the apocalypse with. And a bit of surprising, shameful catharsis in times of tragedy. When you have been feeling the same, there is a delightfully selfish comfort in suddenly entering into a world that is consumed by death, scared of it, paralyzed by fear and uncertainty. The whole world wide, all at once, the usually subdued abstractions of existential annihilation are now running wild like my own poorly automated thoughts, whirring around the warehouse floor of the hive mind and slamming into one another and into the fronts of our faces. It’s sort of nice, in a fucked up way, for an obsessive-compulsive dread gremlin like myself. Not that it’s happening, but that we’re all together in our suffering for once. It’s the answer to my favorite joke, a joke that’s not too much of a joke at all.

“I don’t go to grief group because my Dad died: I go because yours didn’t.”


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