April 7, 2020

. . . the city is a terribly lonely place to be right now. It's the kind of loneliness that can only be felt in a crowd -- I can only compare it in my mind to New York, where thousands of people look at you a day without ever seeing you. Eyes dart furtively above facemasks. Strollers consciously give each other wide berths. The playgrounds, soccer fields, basketball courts, parking lots, cafes, restaurants, bus stops -- all empty and eerily devoid. Any attempt at human contact is addressed warily, from a distance. The recent spate of grey air has been fitting, in an emotional sense.

I live alone, so my responsibility to deny sociability is total. Any interaction is a risk to myself and to others. This requires intense discipline. So much of human communication is physical, whether through contact or posture, and so much lies in a well-drawn-out pause. All things that, for now, I must reject.

I too have been playing the guitar and piano, and journaling a bit more. I've been going on long walks in the evenings, watching families play in their yards or walkers talk into earbuds. The other day I walked to Shoal Creek and stumbled down the embankment to the stones at the water's edge. I sat here for a while, listening to the odd car whoosh by, watching the grey sky fade to dusk. Beside me was a babbling shallow which fed into a small pool. I was thankful to be able to sit by a running body of water -- in my letters to you I'm realizing how important they are to me. I skipped rocks into it for a while -- at first I missed the competition that usually comes with this, but after a while I was glad just to toss them in for my own sake. It got dark, the church bells tolled a late hour, and I walked home.

I started a mutual aid group in my apartment complex, which has been nice. We have a big WhatsApp group chat going where people let each other know when they're going to HEB, offer to pick stuff up, etc. Dogs have been offered up to be pet, and Nintendo Switch friend codes have been exchanged. It's funny to imagine, one person sending a message, and all of us getting the ding! at the same time, separately, within like 100 feet of each other.

Call me morbid, but I love cemeteries. Last year, I lived right across the street from the Austin State Hospital cemetery on 51st Street. From my bedroom window I could look out to it -- a massive, quiet, contemplative field of green, pocked by the odd gravestone often atilt. I'd go for walks in the middle of the night, and I remember that when it was humid the mist would cling low in the grass, gathering like thoughts, the collective dreams of the dead. I always looped my fingers through the chainlink fence and broke my pace a bit as I passed. I think of those graves fondly, and I hope they appreciated my admiration from afar.