I talked to my friend Melissa via Discord for the first time (with the exception of “you still ok?” texts) since December.
We’ve been friends for eightteen years, so long stretches of not a whole lot of talking — because I have a kid, because she works a weird retail management schedule, because we both have anxiety (which is incredibly mentally draining) — is not unusual or particularly upsetting. With COVID, though, this absence from each others’ lives has been longer than intended or anticipated. So chatting was good; more than good.
She mentioned a post that popped up on Facebook Memories that morning, of a beach trip she, I, and my sister took, nine years ago (holy shit); we reminisced about how drunk we got, and walking back from the bar to our hotel, how worried all of us were that she was going to run into the sea “to make sweet, sweet love to the waves, as was her wont.”
Oh, God — I miss the beach, I said.
I miss going out and getting buzzed, and I miss streetlamp lit walks back to our hotel, and the smell of saltwater and the crash of waves in the background. I miss bad karaoke at La Bec Rouge, and free Sour Apple shots on Ladies’ Night, and mind-numbingly hot waitresses, and seductive indie guitarists playing on the patio.
I told her how, every once in a while, I get struck by how badly I miss something that COVID has changed, or taken away, and how I keep thinking I should write about that, even though it seems like everyone and their mother is writing about it, and I couldn’t possibly add anything exceptional or new to the mix.
You should, she said. It’s good to think about. It’s good to keep in perspective, and to aknowledge an appreciation that you never really considered before.
So, here are the things I miss that I’d never really appreciated before.
I miss stopping to grab a latte at Dunks before an all-day shopping spree with my wife.
I miss calling my mom up in the early morning and asking if she wanted company, then packing a bag with stuff for Bear and heading to her house to spend the day there.
I miss impromptu McDonalds run with my sister and her kids.
I miss propping open the front door, and letting Bear play with the neighbor kids (as long as I could still hear them!) until dinner time.
I miss standing outside my son’s school with the other parents, waiting for the janitor to open the doors for afternoon pick-up.
I miss listening to podcasts on the treadmill at the gym.
I miss piles of air matresses on the floor, hard cider, and old I Love the 80s reruns at sleepovers with my friends.
I miss clandestine cigarettes out on my sister’s back porch after the kids have gone to bed.
I miss stocking up at the grocery store for supplies for a weekend potluck.
I miss scrounging through clearance racks at the change of seasons.
I miss sitting and reading a magazine in the Children’s Room at our library while Bear plays with the hand puppets and Thomas the Tank Engine activity table.
I miss rainy nights in the Boston’s Theatre District, and long walks between the restaurant and the theatre before a show.
I miss the early morning anticipation in the admission lines for Comic-Con.
I miss cosplay meet-ups in Boston, I miss conventions, I miss packed-to-capacity panel rooms with a hundred nerds in costume.
I miss midnight movie releases and line parties.
I miss my sister stopping by hours early before a party with alcohol and baking supplies.
I miss sending my son to school on field trip days.
I miss crowding around a computer with my mom and brother to play an escape-the-room game.
I miss knowing my wife has something wonderful planned for our birthdays, or anniversaries, or whatever special occassion she’s remembered (the day she gave me my ring, the day of our first date, the day we met it person, etc.)
I miss impromptu hotel stays with fancy dinners when my wife thinks I’ve been too stressed lately.
I miss… the freedom of not having to plan for my every move, to take into account every possible precaution to make sure I’m not bringing home a potentially deadly pathogen. I miss being able to be impromptu. To be spontaneous. I missing being able to do, without having to mentally measure physical distance or remember to bring masks or stock up on hand sanitizer.
I miss being able to write my chronic anxiety off as “excessive.” I’m tired of my fears being vindicated. The novelty has worn off.
I made my first trip to a store today, set foot inside a retail establishment for the first time since March 12th. It was terrifying, even though everyone wore a mask and kept their distance (though that was really encouraging to see). I have my first social event tonight that isn’t just with my family, in the form of an outdoors, socially distanced get-together for the 4th — nine people including us, BYOB, some food but all single-use disposable serving utensils and all disposable plates and cutlery, plus a bevy of sanitation precautions for bathroom usage and hand sanitation. It makes me feel a lot more comfortable going somewhere where I know we and the other guests and interested in mantaining all the safety protocols, but man, I miss not having to worry about safety protocols.
I miss the days when the biggest social safety protocols I had to worry about was keeping my wallet and drink close by and arranging a designated driver.
But if we keep living like this, we keep… living. And honestly, I will trade conveience for peace of a mind and a chance to safely see my friends. I hope all of you realize that that’s a worthwhile trade off.
There’s a lot to miss, but there’s a lot we can still do if we’re just conscientious about it and follow the experts’ guidelines.
Stay safe and sane, everyone.