We Need Toothpaste

Fuck

We’re almost out of toothpaste. The formerly plump tube is now flattened to .0005mm, almost as thick as the random blonde hair growing between my eyes that every seven months I discover is three feet long and no one told me. I found a half-empty travel size toothpaste under the sink, but how much time does that buy us? If I use Instacart or Amazon, will the workers shopping, packaging, shipping and delivering it be okay? I don’t want them to get sick because I don’t want another fake tooth. But what if we stop using these services? Now they’re part of the 16 million newly unemployed who can’t get access to the flooded unemployment system?

Anyway, Instacart is backed up with orders, so we’re looking at four to five days. Same with Amazon; the travel size toothpaste I found lodged behind my vacationing hair dryer is buying us two days max, three days if I only brush once a day. With my extensive dental history thanks to my easily rotting teeth and sugar addiction, I have to brush two times a day – at least. This isn’t the time to neglect your teeth. Dental emergencies during a respiratory pandemic is not ideal. I don’t like dentists breathing into my mouth and vice versa on a non-coronavirus day.

Normally, when we need toothpaste, I would stop into Walgreens after the gym, but the gym doesn’t exist anymore. And walking into any store right now isn’t easy. My brain goes into mental gymnastics, jumping onto the mental pommel horse before it’s ribbon routine right before hitting the rings: “If you go to Walgreens, tomorrow morning instead of today, and if you get infected while buying toothpaste, and all the clearance Easter candy, let’s be honest, that’ll buy you 48 hours over the churchgoers who got infected going to Easter service yesterday. And maybe that’ll buy you more time for a ventilator to be available. Or shit. Will they have gotten to them first? And if the hospital is out of ventilators and have to use a point system to decide who gets the next one and if I’m up against a young church-going mother who volunteers at a swamped food bank on the weekends when she isn’t at night school while caring for a handicapped husband AND aging parents, even I’m going to say, yeah, roll me into the street.”

I don’t have a mask. We went for a walk, or with social distancing in effect on narrow Chicago sidewalks, more like Frogger, on Saturday in the eerie solitude that used to be Logan Square. With everything closed, Milwaukee Avenue was almost devoid of human life, making my heart hurt. I missed the eclectic 20 somethings. Even dogs being walked looked confused, like, “Dude, where are those hipster kids dressed unironically like Wham band members, vaping while recording Tik Toks? I want my head petted.” When strangers weren’t jumping away from us like scared squirrels or having conversations with friends standing on opposite sides of the street, less than half the people we saw were wearing masks. After five minutes, I hated everyone who wasn’t wearing a mask. And that would include me and my boyfriend.

Do I order paper surgical masks? But that would make me asshole because of the PPE shortage for healthcare and essential workers. How do I make a mask? I can bake, but I’m not crafty. Unless, is fondant a useful barricade against pathogens?

Who has the easiest mask making instructions? A YouTube video? Buzzfeed? Which t-shirt do I sacrifice? A really old one that is as transparent as the pale flesh on my stomach? Or a thicker shirt I don’t like because it’s a scratchy and hot and why would I put that on my face if I can’t stand it against my chest skin? I mean, I think I’ll leave it in place, because death, but what if I forget and pull it down and infect myself and then other people, causing an exponential amount of suffering and carnage? Do I even use a t-shirt or something thicker, like a bath towel or a floor rug?

Am I overthinking this? Can I just tuck my chin into my neck and pull my shirt over my face like an awkward middle schooler? Would people be okay shopping near me in the candy and gum aisle with that set-up? Fuck it, I’ll tie a pair of pajama pants around my face. Easy enough. Wait. What happens when summer hits and it’s 100 and humid? From late June to early September, I don’t like to wear sleeves or denim lower than the bottom of my ass cheeks, let alone a face covering made from one of my sacrificed cat shirts that I say is “so stupid” but I treat like it’s a rare jewel.

And when the vaccine comes, who’s getting that first? Is it getting overnighted to the rich? Am I going to spend months watching celebrities like a contoured Kardashian or a white guy comedian with eye bags and pending sexual assault allegations posting photos of a band-aid on their upper arms and dumb hashtags like #toodle-looCovid-19 or #oneshotformeisoneshotforusall while us plebs have to hide in our homes eating expired canned goods for another year waiting for the drugs to trickle down to us?

And if vaccine distribution isn’t based on wealth and stance, then will it be a lottery like in Contagion? Probably not, because in real America, free lotteries are only used for getting corporate swag like keychains and beer coolies or drafting young men to die in wars, not giving the poor and disadvantaged equality. So, what then? Who filed their taxes first to last? Who voted for whom? Pant sizes? Hair length? Netflix queue? Will they just spray us down with the vaccine using trucks like DDT in the 70s?

Or will the Feds use a value based system? Hoo boy, I’m fucked if that’s so. My personal values align less with typical American values and more with a sloth’s. I dunno, I just like to hang out. Slowly. I’m 37 and recently chose to make less money to be a freelance writer so I can wander around my house asking my cats and unused uterus what they think a good, but funny “think piece” would be.

How much will it cost? Is Johnson & Johnson going to charge $5k a shot? Who can afford that? The demon drugmakers know it’s a gold mine and it’s not like the war profiteer in the White House will stop them. Look what happened to insulin. Congress will try, but Jesus, can anything get done? And speaking of Trump, what fresh hell will be unleashed in the coming weeks and months or, fuck, four more years, thanks to his narcissism and dumbfuckery? As I’m writing this, he’s retweeting #FireFauci, the one guy who knows what’s up, all because Fauci isn’t saying good things about him. How bad will this get? How scared are our representatives knowing that we’re noticing how quickly pollution went away when we stopped the capitalism grind? How gas became affordable while Zoom reigns? Or how quickly our jobs went away? And now that there is indisputable proof the economy is built on the backbone of workers, not the rich assholes gazing down on us from their penthouses, will when the revolution begin? And when will commercials start trying brainwash us back into the “normal way of life” to try and prevent this?

Okay, I found toothpaste. On Amazon. It’ll be here in two days. The sparkling cheesy packaging says it’s probably not effective, like it’s filled with M&Ms and meth, but it’ll do in these “uncertain times”. Uncertain times – there has not been a phrase that makes me gag more. Ever, in any times. It fails to encapsulate the scale of the awfulness of all this. Uncertain times should be trying to decide what’s for dinner, not wondering if we’ll die from a pandemic or if we survive, suffer financial ruin.

Uncertain times. Please. But, that’s my anxiety talking. Maybe we should expect good things? Maybe things will change? Maybe it’ll all be okay?

Shit, we’re almost out of milk.

A Novel Good Morning To You

A “powerful woman but really want to get back under this blanky” vibe

What’s it like to be a morning person? And by that, I don’t mean that you necessarily like being awake in the morning. I mean, what’s it like to be awake in the morning?

Of course, I’ve been awake in the morning. But since the early half of 2000, I haven’t had to wake up regularly in the morning. Thanks to 20 years in the service industry, my work started at 4. Depending on the jobs, sometimes a shift would being at 10:30am and for a short while, really early, like seven or dawn, when working at an Irish pub for European soccer matches, but those lunch shifts were never consistent. If I’m up and moving before 8, (and by 8, I mean 9. Actually, 10) I either have to be at a doctor’s office or I’m getting on a plane. And on some extra special mornings, my sub-consciousness anxiety woke me up at 5am and I’ve been sitting on the couch eating French toast and waiting to be tired enough to go back to bed when everyone else is showering and starting their commutes. And, actually, that’s the same with flights – once we’re in the air, I’m asleep. Also, after a doctor’s appointment? Kicking off my pants and laying back down wondering when they’ll call me back with the test results saying I have every STD known to humankind – even if it’s the optometrist.

So, I guess I’m asking, what’s it like to be awake in the morning when it doesn’t feel like a novelty and then stay awake until bedtime?

Setting an alarm and having a consistent schedule has never been a thing for me. If that sounds glorious to you, maybe you could pull it off, but inconsistency has always rewarded me with a constant humming of slight to above average anxiety. Without a set schedule, sleeping becomes hard. It’s chaotic. And at some point, it becomes lonely. You’re moving opposite to the majority of everyone else in the world. Sure, I can hang out with co-workers, but there’s nothing to do except drink after work, which got old for me several years ago. In my twenties and even early thirties, sure, it was great being able to crank back drinks until 4 am and still get 8 hours of drunk sleep, which didn’t help the hangover at all. Probably because after only three drinks, my body goes into the shakes since I’m always eating refined sugar and really, no one’s kidneys could effectively manage with that kind of uptick in glucose.

I avoided early classes in college, but if I did have them, I had a favorite chair in the library I would pass out in. High school? Forget it. My alarm was set to the last possible second and even that meant I was doing 80 mph on the highway to get myself and my younger brother to school on time. Which is a tradition within my family. My oldest brother, responsible for getting us to school from 1994 to 1996, would jump behind the wheel of the van at 8:08, barely awake and barely dressed, while blasting Guns n Roses, to get us to school by 8:15. And if I overslept by even a minute in high school, I wouldn’t go. I tossed my car keys to my brother and bargained with my mom. All I had to do was promise to clean the house and do the laundry and I got a day watching soap operas and The Price Is Right.

I stopped having a consistent bedtime at, like, 10. Everyone was always wandering around the house in the middle of the night and sleeping whenever and wherever. Baking cookies at 3am? Sure, just make enough for everyone.

I’m asking what a consistent morning schedule feels like because I have to do this now. Waking up in the morning and getting to work. I mean, I don’t have to, I’m working from home – like almost everyone right now. I could still roll out of bed at noon and barely get my freelancing done. But that would raise questions and eyebrows from my boyfriend who has been successfully working from home for years. Also, waking up at noon means I have very time to get any more work done, so I’m limiting myself in potential new work.

I had just begun attempting this novel morning person persona, when COVID-19 was like, “Yo! ‘sup!” I know we’re being told to just relax and do what you can – it’s a pandemic. Unprecedented and no one knows what to do. As long as you put on pants – good job. And if you didn’t – eh, maybe tomorrow. Except, the majority of our workforce being forced to work from home right now is an odd timing for me. Like an undercover oracle, two weeks before the restaurants were shut down in Chicago, I quit my bartending job after 20 years in the industry. To work from home. Just in time for a never before seen global pandemic.

A week after the Illinois lockdown, my old boss told me, “You wanted to work from home. Now you got everyone else to, too.”

You’re welcome?

So I guess it’s great timing for me there’s an influx of advice columns telling us all how to work from home. Oh, and that I didn’t lose my income like my co-workers*. Except I’d rather everything was back to normal. I’ll happily fade away into the night again.

And sidebar, one thing I learned from the coronavirus was a new use for the word ‘novel’. How many times have you heard the phrase “the novel coronavirus”? Like a billion? You don’t normally hear novel as an adjective, only as a noun, as in “Josh has been trying to write his novel for years.” But novel means new. Ironically, because of the novel coronavirus, we’re all having a novel experience, like learning to work from home or experincing collective trauma on a global level.

Neat!

I’m trying to get up earlier and earlier. Sometimes, it works. Sometimes, meaning most of the time, when my boyfriend’s alarm goes off, I sit up straight in bed like a jack in the box with bed hair and sheet lines tattooed into my temples, stare blankly at him through sleep-swollen eyes like I don’t who or what he is and then I flop back into the bed like a jumping fish falling back into a lake. Everything is a process.

Slowly but surely we’ll all get there. There might some days when I say fuck it to stress baking, roll butter in sugar and watch Letterkenny all day. There might be days when the alarm goes off and I get up, too.

So far, I’m in the middle. Waking up an hour after he’s scrumming away. Scrolling through IG for twenty minutes. Finally getting out of bed and groping around for my glasses and pants. Puttering around the kitchen for another 30 minutes. Jumping up every twenty minutes to find a distraction, like snacks or to sing to the cats (they like it. So do our neighbors).

Whenever I did wake up early, back when Earth was open for business, the world always looked different to me. It was a novelty. The sun hit differently. The air was crisp. Sounds were more sharp. Everything was new and ready to go. I was used to commuting to work in the middle of the day when everyone else is inside their offices and Earth was getting that 2 o’clock feeling. And then coming home, when it’s night and there’s no one around again, but more ominous. In the morning, on the way to an appointment or a flight, I’m watching everyone move with everyone else to the trains or inching down the freeway. Everyone’s together. And each morning seemed like it was giving Earth a mulligan. I liked it.

Man, I want it to hurry up and come back so I can join it.

*If you’d like to help those out of work co-workers I mentioned, donate to the Osteria Langhe Employee Relief Fund gofundme: