Updated: May 19, 2021
For over a year now I've been doing online jigsaw puzzles of cafes, breaking apart and putting together images of tables and chairs on sidewalks all over the world.
I haven't thought much about this odd obsession, though it has slowly overtaken all vices formerly known to attract themselves to me—smoke, liquor, tranquilizers, sugar, salt, you name it. Even coffee goes cold, and the silenced commercials revert to the show I've now forgotten. Nothing seems to captivate me like finishing a puzzle of the table I'd like to be sitting at, chatting with a stranger or neighbor, in a deep discussion of philosophy or the weather, one's fashion choice for the day, or the tragicomedy of global politics.
Just today I realized that, having lived as a singleton since 1991, when my addict husband nearly totaled our baby daughter's life along with the station wagon, that my sidewalk cafes have been Survival Mechanism #1 in maintaining my singular existence. Occasionally I have spent evenings or even weekends in someone's home and bed, but these arrangements have never succeeded for me beyond guest towel-rack stage.
So enter pandemic isolation, and the normally solitary nature of an emotionally, and now physically, disabled person's life is more crippled than usual...uh, I mean, more cryptic, more confused? That I'm a cripple is no longer polically correct. How about more out of whack?
Before, balancing the unsocial and self-contained hours at home were the noisy table conversations with a surprise visitor, people who graced my life with the novelty of Otherness without requiring any negotiation over the dishes in the sink or the wrinkled sheets. I could walk away like a grandparent from screaming toddlers, as soon as it was time to go back home.
Ah, and there used to be evenings as well! Jazz concerts in joyful bars and lobster dinners on the bay! Such a life, B.P., Before Pandemic.
Where are the passports now to the new Anno Domini? Will the vaccine override the autoimmunity? Are the masks unnecessary now in the terrace restaurants? Can I see the musicians downstairs at the jazz club, if I'm sitting outside? Are they safe, too? And do I dare to eat a peach?
Zoom and phone lines tell me so. Thanks, Proofrock, I'll try to believe....
I'd rather hear it from you, though, across my sidewalk table.
8 APRIL 2021