MMXX: Strange Times by Noelle Evans

I will remember this moment in history by the smell of hard liquor on my hands from the hand sanitizer that’s been available since there was a shortage.

And the souvenir of a pack of Reese’s Pieces I bought with the intention of getting a stack of quarters so I could wash my laundry, only for the candy to cost me more than the quarters they’d given me. Because there’s also a shortage of quarters.

It’s funny how the small things are affected when everything goes into lockdown. Or quarantine. Or on pause.

You know, two thousand twenty in Roman numerals is M-M X-X. Double M double X. I’ve decided to refer to this year in this way for as long as it serves me. What a year it was for the fall of the Roman Empire. Right? It just feels fitting.

Though, I think my biggest mistake this year has been losing my sense of humor. I’ve been fearful of seeing people’s noses and mouths naked in public. Outdoors. Indoors. But not on video calls.

I’ve read articles about how autopsies revealed the extent to which the coronavirus attacks the body — how so many tiny clots have been found in lungs, how cells normally found in bone marrow make their way to the heart.

All it takes is good hygiene, putting on a mask, and taking space to keep it at bay. And all it takes is one person with the infection to spread it to a sea of others.

And I know that compliance is low. I know that infection rates are high. It’s December and we are clawing our way through overwhelmed ICUs, surging cases seemingly everywhere… and here it all kicked off with Halloween parties back in October, then again with Thanksgiving. Now we’re waiting to see what Christmas has brought us. Never mind New Years’.

Somewhere in all these months, I’d lost my sense of self. All gestures and eye contact and body language — all those tiny ways of connecting. A look, a laugh, a shared moment. Gone.

Noelle Evans
MMXX: Strange Times

It’s been a year of moments. Moments of either clarity or admittedly insanity. Insanity when I become dramatically aware of my discomfort, my limited sphere of control in a maddening world. Or is that the clarity?

These moments are interspersed throughout a void of timeless days that blend together into a general amnesia.

These moments.  At least they help to mark time. But they are fierce.

Like the time I became a careening wrecking ball and busted up a college house party in a neighboring apartment. Not one person wore a mask. It was after Halloween. We were on the cusp of what has since become a relentless surge of COVID-19 cases. That was back when the local death toll was hovering around 300 people. Now it’s nearly doubled.

And I knew it then, what could happen because I’d been paying attention. Because we’d seen it before, just not here.

First I broke up a fight between some drunken grown children with glassy eyes, slopping faces and no coordination. I came barreling through like a banshee, or Medusa, yelling into hellfire. They scattered like rodents. Then I approached the offending neighbors who looked at me like I was a joke. One girl said: “Don’t use the Covid thing. If it’s noise we can turn it down.”

Covid thing. What Covid thing, exactly?

Somewhere in all these months, I’d lost my sense of self. All gestures and eye contact and body language — all those tiny ways of connecting. A look, a laugh, a shared moment. Gone. I didn’t realize before how much of my inner-value I’d assumed from my relationships and interactions.

I no longer had a concept of who I was. And now, in the eyes of these spoiled, underaged, drunken frat children, I’ve been reduced to one: psycho bitch.

Am I, though? And if I was: why would that make me any less worthy of listening to?

I’ve been reduced to a concept before, so at least it’s familiar. And it’s kind of nice to have something to stir up nostalgia.

Photograph by Madelyn Bradt
All audio, text and images are under copyright © Neelum Films LLC


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