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Günter Fruhtrunk: Cloister Garden (1963)

"My home is my cloister …"

By my own assessment, I've become an expert at sequestering. I maintain no public schedule of appearances other than to manifest at pharmacy or grocery, both on irregular bases. I shun invitations. I do not ever drop in to visit. I keep my own counsel and exclusively mind to my own business. I feel overwhelmed, unable to maintain my own expectations, let alone live up to any others'. I'm behind on my weeding and feeling as though I might never finish the current repainting project. I hold myself hostage but send no ransom notes. I feel reasonably certain that nobody would respond to my ransom demands, regardless.

Two years and two full months into This Damned Pandemic, I might finally be approaching the eigenvalue of my disengagement.
The Muse returned to social interaction just about as soon as we returned from exile, but I didn't. She chides me that she's not interpreting the sequestration suggestions nearly as strictly as am I, that if anything, she's exposing me more than I'm exposing myself, and that it doesn't matter what the source was once it breaks through the barriers. I still stay home, declining invitations. It's a matter of personal pride now, that I won't crack, that I won't break, that I can be true to my own initial intentions. I feel cracks in my defenses, though. I do not know how much longer I'll manage to maintain my structural integrity.

What I wouldn't give for the freedom to just once go out to breakfast again. I've watched myself drift by that old guy's diner around dawn some mornings, drooling, but I've always continued driving. I once ordered by phone some smothered hash browns to go, meeting a waitress in the parking lot in a transaction that felt like a drug deal destined to go bad. The hash browns were cold and smelled faintly of styrofoam, right on the edge of inedible, by the time I got them home. I swallowed them anyway but felt no renewed energy from the experience. I've since been actively Squelching any urge to take my rightful place along that line of counter seats reserved just for geezers at the diner. I feel as though I'm foregoing a well-earned right of passage, to read a paper with a side of sausage just before sunrise some mornings.

My repainting project, truth told, is more a make work effort, for what's a guy supposed to do if he cannot allow himself to go anyplace? The Muse suggested we take a few days for an extended toodle, a sort of vacation, but we're surrounded by places with even less controlled spread than home. What would be the purpose of traveling if it increased my risk of contracting Covid. Yes, I have friends who have continued flying, cross country, Hawaii, even Italy, but I increasingly concede that that's never very likely to be me again. I'm cloistering, sequestering, actively Squelching instead.

The challenge for me has become how to feel as though I'm living a full and properly expressive life so tightly and, yes, fearfully composed. It does not feel safe out there, and my fears are not simply unjustified paranoia. I watch others calculate risks as if mere calculation would render them immune, but it couldn't. Further, one in five infected will exhibit symptoms of Long Covid, which nobody even has a handle on how to treat. The likelihood of contracting it if one does not actively engage in Squelching it, seems about a thousand percent. The danger has not passed. The likelihood of contracting it's much higher than it was a year ago, when everyone was still pretty much wearing masks and at least pretending to try thwarting it.

I'll be up on my scaffolding aching to be perching on a diner's counter seat. I will continue to refuse to meet up for lunch. I will continue to wear my mask in public and decline the invitations to take a little getaway vacation. I'm actively Squelching, getting excellent practice for how it might feel to be dead. The dead never take themselves to breakfast or accept an invitation to lunch, or even distantly consider taking a getaway vacation. They stay put over Memorial Day, though they will accept visitors, assuming said visitors consent to bring flowers. My home is my cloister, I should not want. My own backyard should be green enough pasture, but isn't always.

©2022 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

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