I still go to the post office every day. Sometimes just to get the mail from the PO Box other times to drop off packages with art that I sold. And even though I now get all my shipping labels online, so I don’t have to stand in line, I still usually get to see Wendy as I drop off my packages.
So far the only visible change at the post office was that Wendy, the postal clerk, was wearing rubber gloves.
But today as I walked through the short hallway to the front desk I saw the little stop signs and blue lines on the floor marking off 6-foot distances. There was a low table in front of the counter with the credit card machine and a bottle of hand sanitizer.
I laid my packages on the counter and Wendy smiled as she always does. “They’re going to put up a plexiglass divider”, she told me. And I could see how unhappy she was that it had come to that.
I felt my throat tighten and my face turning red as tears welled up in my eyes. I held them back till it got into the car.
“You’re crying,” Jon said and smiled sadly. Jon understands my tears. He says they’re just another way that I talk and I should never apologize for them.
Yesterday Veronica emailed me an article that I glanced at and decided not to read. It was about grieving for the losses that have already come with the realities of the Coronavirus. I did save the article because I knew I didn’t read just then because it touched something inside of me that I wasn’t ready to acknowledge.
Our next stop was the Co-op.
It’s where we’ve been doing all of our food shopping for the past couple of weeks. I took a deep breath and wiped my eyes before going in. There are four paid employees that have been keeping the Co-op running without the regular help of us volunteer members.
I walked past the boxes of food piled up in the aisle from the weekly delivery. I wanted so bad to help unpack them, to wash down the shelves or mop the floor. “We can’t get as much done without all the good help we’re used to,” Kelly said to me as if reading my mind.
I took out the glass jug from my bag and as I filled it with Kombucha I started to cry again. By now I knew it was useless, so I went to the bathroom to hide like I used to when I was a kid. I looked at myself in the mirror and told myself to “Stop!”
By the time we got home, I was feeling bad about crying at the Co-op. So I went back to apologize.
Stephanie was behind the register wiping down the counter and Kelly was stocking the bread shelf. When I told them why I was there, that I didn’t mean to bring my shit into the Co-op, that they had enough to deal with, Kelly told me she didn’t even know that I had been crying and anyway, she cries all the time.
Then Stephanie told me how she lost it right before coming to work when she got a text message saying that even though the school was closed they were still giving free lunch to the students.
Jon was right, I didn’t need to apologize for my tears. But I’m still glad I went back to the Co-op because I think I needed to make that personal connection with Kelly and Stephanie.
If my tears today were about grieving it was for the loss of my community. Of the ease of going into the post office and chatting with Wendy. Of shopping or working at the Co-op and making light conversation with the people, most of whom I know by sight, who I see there. Of sitting face to face with Mandy and Athena at the cafe and waving to Connie from the bookstore as she stops in to pick up her lunch.
There’s a really good chance that we’ll lose some of these things permanently and get some of them back. But this morning I wasn’t thinking of what might happen. I was feeling the loss of that moment.
So I came home and cried some more.
And when I was done crying I turned on my sewing machine and iron, cut up some more fabric and elastic and got to work sewing more face masks for The Mansion.