It’s warm and windy in the valley today. The sun feels so good on my skin, as the breeze swirls little cyclones of leaves and trash against the buildings I’m walking past. A palm frond waves at me as I pass. It is barely clinging to the trunk of its tree, and will probably come down with the first real gust that hits it at dusk.
I have my headphones in my pocket, but I decide to leave them there and let my mind wander. It’s good to be bored. It’s good to rely on my own imagination to entertain me as I walk home from lunch with my friends, who I haven’t seen in months.
I have this story idea I’ve been working on. It’s kind of silly, but it’s entertaining to me, and it should be fun to write. I spend most of my walk working on its first line, which is currently sounding like, “Matthew woke up with the kind of hangover that can only be described apocryphally. ”
I try lots of variations, but that’s the one I keep coming back to. I don’t know if it’s as good as I think it is. Maybe it’s lazy and not as evocative as I think it is, but it’s what I can do right now.
The wind blows some dust into my face and I have to take off my glasses to wipe out my eyes. A kid, probably in 10th or 11th grade, walks past me, backpack slung over one shoulder, face buried in their phone. I can relate to this kid. They are dressed a little punk rock, with torn jeans and a T-shirt from a band I’ve never heard of. Many piercings, brightly colored hair that’s cut into a style I haven’t seen before.
I want to tell this kid that they’re awesome for being weird. I decide to keep my mouth shut because this kid doesn’t care what an old man thinks, and neither do I, it turns out.
Maybe it’s being adjacent to what I have labeled as youthful rebellion, but I cross the street against a red light. I’m not going to stand here on the corner when there’s no traffic, and wait for a light that is just slowing me down, man.
As I cross the center line, I see a motorcycle cop, who has pulled someone over and is writing them a ticket. Yeah. I’m jaywalking. Fuck the police. I’m a middle-aged rebel and what are you going to do about it?
Last night, we went to a screening for our friend’s new Netflix series, BLACK SUMMER. It’s set in a zombie apocalypse, but it’s really about what happens when society collapses and we have to rely on strangers to survive. It’s about the sacrifices we make for our children. It’s about authoritarianism and violence for violence’s sake.
As I walk down the quiet, suburban street, on the most beautiful day we’ve had in months, I think about what we watched. I think about what I would do if something catastrophic happens and I have to protect myself and the people I love. I think about how terrible the world is right now, how loud the voices of hate and anger are, and how grateful I am to be outside, in the warm sunshine, walking home to my dogs. I think about how powerless I feel. I think about how afraid I am of my country, my community, my entire world being slowly torn apart. I don’t know if a zombie apocalypse would bring out the best in us, or if it would just exacerbate our divisions.
I want to have faith in humanity. I want to expect the best of people. But fool me once and so forth.
I’m so tired.
The sun is at my back. My black T-shirt is a heat sink and a small bead of sweat runs down my spine.
It feels good to be outside. The world is a terrible place right now, but it feels good to be out in it, alone with my thoughts and aspirations. It is good to be outside, enjoying a beautiful day, being grateful for my life and the people in it.
It has been an indescribably painful seven months. Every day has been a struggle, but every day has been a gift.
I’m doing the best I can, and I have to remind myself that my best will have to be enough, and I’ll have to keep doing it, even when it feels like it isn’t enough, because it’s all I can do.
The wind is at my back now, and it blows my hair up into an approximation of my bedhead. That makes me smile. I leave it alone, resist the reflex to smooth it out and make myself more presentable. Nobody cares, and neither should I.
Could I survive the zombie apocalypse? Or would I welcome it? I’m not ready to honestly explore the question, because whatever the answer is, I don’t think I’m prepared for it.