It took until Day 34 of our quarantine, but I finally had a pandemic dream. I had gone to the church to make sure that the live streaming for the Easter Sunday service was set up, but while I was there, maybe a hundred people showed up, streaming into the church in their Sunday best. I tried to send them away, but they weren’t listening to (hearing?) me at all, too busy adjusting their hats and taking their seats. I began live-streaming the service, because the show must go on, and also what else could I do? But I was worried that we were going to get in trouble with the authorities for having too many people in one place, and I was worried because there is no successful social distancing in pews, and I was worried that none of these people seemed to care. I was meant to collect the offering – how could I do this? Passing the plate is contamination, but I couldn’t reach the middle of the pews without getting up into people’s personal space, which is also bad. And then the cops came: Too many people one place. Disperse! This is dangerous! Yes, I know, I told them, but since we’re all here and already exposed, can we just go ahead and do communion? It would mean so much, and we’re all fucked already anyway. No, they told me, herding people out the door, disperse!
I had to laugh when I woke up, because really, it wasn’t a dream about the pandemic at all. It’s one of my brain’s very classic anxiety dream formats: I am trying to do a thing; I cannot do the thing, because (people/obstacle/unplanned complication). Rinse and repeat. I was trying to do the thing that I knew I was supposed to be doing (live stream the Easter service), but things kept coming up in ways they shouldn’t (insistent congregants, police enforcers).
Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose, no?
(Yes and no, of course, but as we progress, willingly or otherwise, into the new normal, I’m grateful for the ways in which I, and everyone I know, remain fundamentally the same humans, recognizable and familiar even in moments of distress.)