Divorce rates spike, domestic violence victims are in their worst-case scenario, and Trump wants to get rid of the elderly. How does one return to love?
I’d let it happen again. For the third time in as many days, the line long dead, I stood, cell phone in hand, and imagined my husband shaking his head, wondering why he’d bothered to check in from work.
It could be another 16 hours before he called again. Before I had another chance to tell him how scared I am to lose someone to Coronavirus. To say I’m not so much angry at him as I am frustrated he’s being made to work endless shifts, put his life at risk for projects that aren’t (in my admittedly biased view) urgent. (My husband’s a television engineer. Not a medical professional.)
I knew what’d set me off: that damn White House Coronavirus briefing. For days, I’d watched it while plowing through pints of Ben and Jerry’s New York Super Fudge Chunk ice cream delivered via Instacart. Told myself it was therapy. That I watched in order to see Donald Trump be more of an ignorant ape than usual, proving my theory that the only thing that makes Trump voters, well, Trump voters, is their perpetual state of grievance, the lack of empathy resulting from all that “my-glass-is-empty-and-it’s-the-Clinton’s-fault.”
Look at him. Saying we should let our elderly die to save the economy. Look at him lying about drugs he knows nothing about, smiling with glee upon hearing that Mitt Romney has self-isolated after unsuspectingly having lunch with a positive Rand Paul (probably the only time that word will truthfully describe the senator from Kentucky).
I say these things out loud; my mouth full of ice cream. Who cares? (And where’s Melania’s Urban Outfitters jacket when you need it?) “It’s LOVE, you moron! Say something decent, coño. Look at Italieeeeee!” I shriek at the TV.
Screaming returns me to sanity. What do I know about love in the time of a pandemic? I’m just a woman in need of a good shampoo who isn’t even loving to her own husband when he calls.
And yet, I’ve read enough books about metaphysics to know that if love is the answer (and it is), we’re in deep. Screwed. Because fear doesn’t bring out love, does it? It generates nihilism, cynicism, stress, frustration. Not love. I look at myself in the mirror. Not love of any kind.
In the Chinese city of Xi’an, the number of divorce requests spiked as soon as they reopened for business. In the U.K., celebrity divorce lawyer, Fiona Shackleton (Madonna, Paul McCartney) warns divorces of the acrimonious kind will rise for couples forced to isolate together. According to the Los Angeles Times, domestic abuse victims are in a “worst-case scenario” during the outbreak. In Miami-Dade, the rate of divorce rose by 30 percent after Hurricane Andrew devastated the county in 1992. I remember we were all mad, sniping, petty. Sure, there were stories of good Samaritans, of heroes. They were everywhere on TV.
Now all I see on T.V. is Donald Trump and I realize there is a real risk to having a moron for a president. He’s the virus to whose fumes I’d willingly exposed myself and now I was emulating his worst instincts. This was about more than my marriage. Who did I want to be when it counted?
But how could I return to love? After posing my new theory to several wise friends on social media, they sent me videos and I’ll admit to being a bit insulted. As if cats doing tricks could melt my quickly hardening heart. I had asked a serious question! A deep question about love in the time of panic.
But then I watch. In one video, nurses line a hallway looking like angels and plead with us to stay home. In another, music emerges from Italian balconies. Good Samaritans deliver food to seniors in New York. I keep watching until I’m crying. The videos have one thing in common: people taking time to do something for strangers, to film a rant, to scold, to make something funny, to try and lift someone else’s gloom. People dance and recommend books and tell us the sad news of people just lost, yesterday, two days ago, the pain still in their faces.
I watch for hours because they are what I miss and because I am like them: human. Scared. I watch for what can make me better: loving more. Doing more. Giving. I go outside and wave to my neighbor who never says thank you for the bottle of Coquito I place on her porch every December. She waves back, surprised. ¿Dime con quién andas y te diré quién eres? I had been andando with the wrong example of humanity.
My cell phone rings. It’s Danny saying something about how much he hates fighting with me. I glimpse the TV. The president is talking again. (He’s everywhere, always, talking endlessly.) I say into the phone: “Don’t worry, papi. We’re going to be fine.”