Only half a million dead globally. Cynics compare H5N1 to Y2K. Some hint that fat people deserve to die anyway. (Is the phrase ‘American civilization’ an oxymoron? Who ya calling a moron, creep!) My neighborhood wailer has gone silent. Is she sick or tired? Both?
Yet things are decidedly improving. The LES DIY is experiencing a falloff in visitors at my friend’s restaurant. The faces that show up look more like homeless and less like hapless East Villagers.
A lot of people starved in 1918. Not for lack of food, but because healthy people stopped circulating. No one would go near the sick with food or medicine. Surviving children were abandoned. I wonder how many lives the LES DIY has saved.
Ric’s Place normally features superb, underpriced French food—not generic Chez Oignon. To those who sneered at gays when I started this blog, let me point out that he’s openly homosexual, though I don’t think he does much about it these days. Ric’s too busy nourishing the entire community, compounding pandemic losses by keeping his once-chic restaurant open for people who can’t pay.
I’ve always thought him to resemble a hearty young Mediterranean patron, with a sharp goatee and demonic flashing eyes. His slight paunch used to hint at prosperity. All gone.
Ric still thinks he’s funny: He introduces me every afternoon as El Bandito Plastico because of the masks and goggles and gloves I wear. Today he gave me an orange water pistol, which I filled and emptied to good effect, distracting Do-It-Yourselfers from their duties. They look so serious in those masks!
I wound up sitting alone for a while in a green patch behind the restaurant. Took off my mask and goggles, breathed. A glass or two of red wine and some passing smoke had relaxed me. I fell asleep in a lawn chair, woke uneasily to the sound of someone gasping.
It was the interesting woman who runs the LES DIY’s food service. She was huddled on her heels, cheekbones cradled in her hands, sobbing softly in a pool of light. She hadn’t noticed me. I wasn’t about to shock or embarrass her by declaring myself as she grieved.
I remained ‘asleep’ till she arranged her goggles and went back to work. She was piling plates when I attempted to slip unnoticed through the kitchen. When she saw me, she jumped, broke a dish. I bumped into a chair, kept moving.
When I got home, Nina looked like she’d been crying, too. She’s wracked with hay fever. She’s flushed and looks hot (the wrong kind). Her voice is scratchy, eyes sticky. Her nose is a busted faucet. She refuses to take any allergy medicine or even to discuss what’s wrong. Is silence galling? At least it leaves the door open.
It used to be endearing that she never agreed with me. Civilized conflict can be sexy.
It hurts that she won’t let me take her temperature.