the persistence of memory

Walking in the Surrealistic Canvas of Today with my daughter and two-week-young granddaughter at a nearby park on a glorious 67 degree NYC day, we social-distanced while getting a bit of much-needed fresh air. The park was confettied with old and young, cyclists and joggers, strollers and park bench sitters, all staying respectably far away from each other. It was eery and wonderful. The baseball field, framed by white flower-laden trees and cheerful red-breasted robins, was barricaded from the public with trash trucks and park law enforcement vehicles. A mom and a dad stretched white sting between two poles creating a makeshift tennis court. Masked grandpas chatted two benches apart as my daughter circled around and around the track.

People are dying. People are suffering. And there’s this: Life.

A nurse in scrubs stretches and decompresses as her caring husband gives her physical and psyche space. I watch her and think about all that she’s seen in the last several weeks and want to give her a hug, but realize what she needs most is to be left alone and separate from the day she’s had or is about to have.“God protect her,” I pray.

On the east side of the park near the closed playground, my daughter sits down to feed the baby and a husband and wife in their 60s greets an old friend in his 70s who says, “I’m going back to work.” He’s an undertaker, if that’s what they call them nowadays. “Business has been so out of control,” he says, “It’s like World War II. We can’t handle any more bodies.”

“No escape,” my daughter says, as she places little Millie back in the turtle-covered stroller.

I look up at the stained-blue sky and think, We are in a Salvador Dali painting, flying like Peter Pan between fragments of disconnected metaphors and a Jamaica Kincaid novel. It’s all real and none of its real. We are in a dream, a nightmare, a Sunday school class at Christ Church.

It’s not our fault. Yet it’s anti-human.

And the park. And the baby. And all of our lives. And I might die. Cuz I’m a Baby Boomer. And I haven’t retired yet. And I haven’t lived my best life yet. And if I do get this stupid virus please don’t put me on a ventilator. I don’t want to live the rest of my life–if I make it–with my lungs shredded so that I can’t go to Tuolumne Meadows Poetry Festival this summer in Yosemite’s High Sierras or get that little RV I’ve had my heart set on and tour the U.S. I have stories I want to write and pictures I want to paint and babies I need to see grow up and grandsons who need their grandma and I shouldn’t have to think about dying from a stupid, horrible pnemonia/flu virus while I’m here in the park taking my granddaughter for her first walk.

I might. Die. So might someone I love. My sister who has a compromised health condition, and my cousin, who is also vulnerable. And all those people I don’t know. They are dying now. Like the ruthless panther-predator that it is, this damn virus might take one of us down. As I watch a little girl with braids learn to ride her bike for the first time on this fine Spring day, I realize how truly vulnerable I am, how vulnerable everyone is and always has been.

We knew a crash was coming. Before the virus, we’d likely blame it on the Democrats or Republicans; we knew the High roller Times wouldn’t last. We just didn’t expect to get clubbed from behind when we weren’t looking.

Dali said it best: “What is a television apparatus to man, who has only to shut his eyes to see the most inaccessible regions of the seen and the never seen, who has only to imagine in order to pierce through walls and cause all the planetary Baghdads of his dreams to rise from the dust.”

Breathe in and out, in and out. Notice. Listen. Look. I’m in a Dali painting, a collision of melting pocket watches and jagged cliffs. Surreal.

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