BY DYLAN LONG I got let off of work in the middle of my shift. We turned the lights off and began disinfecting the store for a final time. Card readers, chairs, counters, clothing racks, the works. Rumors floated about that the whole city was shutting down. It was mid-March. Our store’s shutting down felt overdue, but thankfully, the company I work for was giving us two weeks paid leave. I left work and walked straight down to the Wine & Spirits store, which closed in around two hours, and found a line stretching out the door and growing down Chestnut St. I absolutely waited.
I live at home with my parents and younger sister, and they know I smoke. I didn’t smoke at home before, but now I’ll go out to the backyard and plop down in the beach chair I dug up from the basement, spending time under our old beach umbrella that now has a sense of purpose and companionship again. Paradise. Yeah, it’s a tiny backyard for our slightly less-tiny row home in South Philly, where we’ve spent the past 20 years. It ain’t luxurious, but its close quarters make the classic rock and blues my neighbor plays out of her bedroom window each day seem that much closer.
My dad has to work still. He’s a manager at a prominent printing company that provides informational signage to several hospitals and health care facilities dealing with the pandemic. It’s essential work. Even with his full work schedule, we’ve collectively managed to knock out all of The Handmaid’s Tale, two seasons of The Sopranos, and a shit ton of movies. Our favorites so far are Parasite, 1917, and Little Women. My sister definitely could’ve done without Pineapple Express. Thank god she skipped Step Brothers.
My grandfather on my dad’s side left us not long ago, and we came into possession of his lifetime collection of stuff: sports cards, comic books, records, the works. I’ve split my time in quarantine exploring it in all of its vastness, and selling some of the valuables, namely a trove of Derek Jeter rookie cards, Pappy’s all-time favorite. It’s incredible how much he kept: hundreds of 1950’s Topps baseball cards, thousands of records, vintage toys, clothes, pottery, you name it. Ignoring the fact that our house looks more like a storage unit now, it’s been cathartic to spend hours going through it all instead of sitting idly, glued to the news. It makes me feel like a kid again.
I think that’s what my real goal has been in this traumatic period of time we’re living in. Taking a step back. Acknowledging my emotions, good and bad, but no pity parties. Letting go of the pressure to be productive. Analyzing how I imagined I’d be living my life if only I had the time, and readjusting. Not trying to figure everything out.
I understand full-well that what I’ve written here has generally been a highlight reel, and borders on romanticizing the socioeconomic privilege of self-isolating in a healthy and secure environment. I was tasked with writing about my own personal experience during this quarantine, and I did so fully cognizant of my privilege.
I’m not dying from coronavirus. I’m not working around the clock fighting to save lives, risking myself in the process. I’m not working, period, I’m not out on the streets, and I ate today. I’m white. My privilege allowed this piece to be a highlight reel. I wasn’t solemn or political because I didn’t have to be. My circumstances do not require it, my life does not depend on it. I say this not to condescend, but to acknowledge that far too many people do not have this luxury.
That being said, I have to be realistic about what I can and can’t control in my life and the lives of others. Doing so has helped me accept that, while also holding space for empathy and solidarity with others, taking care of myself is okay. Necessary. My hope is that highlighting this and talking about the positives of my experience will help others who may be struggling to cope. Lastly, we cannot forget our shared responsibility. If you have a roof over your head right now, recognize that privilege, and do everyone in the world a favor: stay the fuck under it.