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"An Old-Time Counting Room," Fell's Point, Baltimore, MD, c. 1770; drawing dated 1879.
"We shared so much together back when we still lived so fiercely independent of each other."

We might pride ourselves on our fierce independence, though none of us do very much alone. Birth, marriage, graduation, financial success and failure, not even death can be accomplished alone. Each experience occurs through intimate association. That home, so proudly all-by-yourself owned, was purchased from someone, probably painted by others, and serviced by a small legion of supporting personnel. Each birth required a father and a mother, a midwife and aide. Each marriage, even one officiated by a lowly Las Vegas Elvis impersonator, brought two people together. Death demands some other to cart off and dispose of the corpse. We accomplish nothing alone.

The daily numbers numb me.
Each seem to materially misrepresent my own felt sense, but I concede that the numbers do seem to clearly show thousands of deaths, each its own isolating event. The Dow displays manic-depressive tendencies, its wild upswings easily as unsettling as its bottomless lows. We know what's coming by counting Uncountables and responding accordingly, however otherwise unlikely those projections seem. Deaths by the thousands become a numbing statistic, signifying hardly anything. Millions suddenly unemployed after a decade of increasing prosperity which left so very many behind. Oxycontin white death preceded this pandemic. Even at peak prosperity, half the kids qualified for subsidized lunches at school. Every independent carries their own dependencies. It seems people bake in their own meanings, some feeling more vulnerable and others inspired to feel even more fiercely independent. We model for insight, not for answers, but most of us interpret models as if they provided answers, anyway, even when those pseudo-answers deeply disturb us.

The White House releases fresh projections daily, though nobody there will speak on any record about the source of their numbing new numbers. One spokesperson, speaking on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak (nobody is), reported that the latest batch represented a cobbling together of several models. The modelers reported that they'd been given twenty-four hours to produce something, and each insisted that this deadline provided too little time, but they'd delivered some preliminary something anyway. Lord might not even know who cobbled together the final projections or why, other than that Our President thought that presenting actual numbers, even numbers nobody could properly describe as actually anything but fiction, might reassure the public that they were in good hands. This White House was already widely understood to cook every number they ever published. Why should pandemic projections enjoy exclusion? Spurious projections cast upon innumerable presumptions serve as our horizon today.

We each live anecdotally, statistically insignificant in any larger scale of things, though things do not naturally scale. Our leading indicators might be leading us into more temptation than salvation, insights always lagging true belief. This household shelters alone with our inherent dependencies made even more apparent by our absent access to them. I peer through the window to determine if the distant freeway's traffic still moves. I watch the weather and limit my news consumption because there seems to be so very little I can do except those actions notable only through their absence. I strain to leave the car in the garage. I almost feel as though I could die for a Popeye's Chicken Sandwich®, though I want to avoid becoming a statistic for almost nothing.

I stopped counting the days of our isolation after I realized that I'd accumulated a pile of precisely nothing as a result. I could have chosen to chart our incarceration, counting down to the latest projected day of freedom, but the very thought of that analysis left me feeling stupider. We hold no promise of emancipation yet. It's hardly even an aspiration anymore. UnCountables contain us now, they sustain our hopes as well as our fears. We must be somewhere in here. Recent statistics suggested that half the American population risks mental health issues due to forced isolation, as spurious a statistic as any I've recently seen, which really says something. The series' we binge watch show a world as none of us any longer experience it. People walk into actual sit-down restaurants and ride elevators together, they crowd into bars to listen to live music while sipping frosty draft beers. We shared so much together back when we still lived so fiercely independent of each other.

©2020 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

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