March 25, 2020

This Just In: Human Touch Has Been Canceled*

by joeyphoenix

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by Joey Phoenix
Disclaimer: Grief comes in many stages, acceptance is only one of them.

Wait. Check your phone. Anything new?
Screen to Screen.
Is this the new normal?

I’m an extrovert. I spend my life seeking out people to talk to, connect with, understand. If I were surrounded by humans for a week straight with little to no privacy, I would be fine with that. I love hugs and dancing and all of the things that require humans to be in the same room with other humans.

This just in.
Human touch has been canceled.
Don’t touch your friends
Don’t touch your face

For the first time since moving to Boston I find myself isolating. Sure there are live streams and zoom chats and virtual conferencing and constant NPR (but I think that was always the case), but I don’t want anything to do with them.

The only news story that came through to me today from a major news source that wasn’t pandemic related was about a man who spent two decades documenting the salvaging of Blackbeard’s Ship suing the state of North Carolina over copyright issues.

We’re in interesting times. And there’s so much information that I’m finding it impossible to connect with any of it. How fortunate for us all that we’re able to stay connected because technology makes it possible. And I am grateful because it’s better than nothing.

But connecting via technology, while helpful, just isn’t the same. And maybe it’s cruel to call attention to that fact. But if I am grieving anything, it’s the loss of access to my community. And I am grieving, but instead of it being an active thing, it feels blank like I keep refreshing the page and getting the same error message.

One of the hardest bits for me to process about all of this is that we aren’t social distancing to keep ourselves from getting sick. We’re doing it to keep ourselves from getting sick at such a rate that hospitals cannot support the weight of treatment. That all this is preventative.

Or, at least, this is what I understand. I’m a risk-taker by nature, so I’m not following any rules, guidelines, or advisories for my own sake. I’m doing it for everyone else.

Do no harm, they say.

So I hide in my house or in my partners’ houses. All of my third spaces are closed. People are afraid to touch me. What if they get me sick? What if I get them sick? What if neither of us get sick but we pass it on to someone who is immunocompromised?

Social distancing is going to save a lot of humans. It’s going to make a whole lot of difference for the public health and safety of our cities, our states, our country. I get it. These are facts. Everyone else, from what I can tell, is pretty on board with this too.

What I’m wanting though is a world to return to once this is over. I want a world where artists get to do what they love and get paid to do it and I get to see, hear, eat, admire, fall in love with what they create. I want a world where there’s a bar that books weird bands and a coffee shop with mediocre WIFI but great coffee and a bookstore that doesn’t have any of the titles I want stocked but a whole lot of other stuff I didn’t know I needed.

I want a world where performers can perform and artists can make art and dreamers can dream big dreams that might actually come true. And right now more than anything else I am afraid that this global experience will cripple that world I love so dearly. Because it already is doing just that, I’m just hoping it won’t be permanent.

And artists are strong. Artists are dandelions that grow up through the cracks in sidewalks to have their color reach the sky and I hope that most of us will survive this.

So I say this, while you are striving to protect public health and safety for the greater good of everyone, do not forget that we are human, and there are some things that make this life livable.

Art is one of them.

So wash your hands, stay inside, but support the people who make this world a better place to be. Without them, for me anyways, it’s just not worth it.

Joey Phoenix is a nonbinary queer writer who is standing 6 feet away from all strangers and washing their hands quite a lot. They also have been shopping at Super 88 in Malden because Chinese superstores are actually the shit.

*This title has been unabashedly stolen from one Gryphon who wasn’t using it anyways.

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