COVID-19 BLOG: The Walking Hour

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Clouds seen during the walking hour. Photo courtesy of Ryan Hagan.

As the 2020 fall semester begins, we reflect on our time during quarantine. This blog was written April 2, 2020. 

My family and dog sit around the dining room table. Our scant sandwiches and ramen noodles decay within our mouths, each otherwise bland flavor bursting like a glimmer of hope. 

We’re all on lunch break, punched out from virtual offices and excused from Teams meetings, away from our screens for the first time in five hours. Finally we’re able to strike up conversations. We have only thirty minutes. 

Time is ticking.

Mom and Dad struggle to discuss anything except the increased death toll and rising infections — the heightened quarantines and crashing markets. We routinely convince ourselves this is an exciting change of pace. I stare into space, still coming to terms with the surreality after two weeks of it. A gulp of water washes down my ramen and the ensuing Oreo cookie.

It is the year 2020: the year of the Coronavirus — the year in which the world shut down for a few months. 

I excuse myself from the table. Back upstairs I go. 

My bedroom door shuts. The mirror on its inside-facing surface reflects my likeness back at me. Long, tangled hair atop my head sticks to my eyebrows. I wish I could sheer it off just by looking at it. Scruff adorns my jaw. I’m in desperate need of shaving. Hours go by. 

It’s too easy to lose track of time when the world is frozen around you.

I cross my legs on my bed, listening to every soundtrack I know as I work. The music of Pathologic resounds in my ears, its grimey techno beats merged with a dark synth and orchestral instruments. This Russian survival game about a supernatural plague afflicting a rural town resonates with me in these times. It is a sort of brutal irony that I got into it right before the outbreak. Likewise, I spend evenings delivering packages across a broken America in Death Stranding, a game about reuniting a post-apocalyptic USA in which everyone is socially isolated. These are my two primary pastimes aside from drawing and writing.

And I am doing a lot of drawing and writing. Artwork of my characters goes up on my social media as quickly as I can create it, fulfilling a base desire to be noticed. Writing is a slower task, both for school and for fun. I do not care to separate the two, for the moment I do is the moment one of these falls to the wayside, much like my creeping beard. 

Time moves differently when the world is frozen. 

Hours and hours go by. They merge together as one dull blur of inactivity. My spatial perception is confined to an area of 20 feet by 15. I begin to wonder about the world outside my bedroom. For once it is not going on without me; it is as stagnant as I am.

Finally, four-o-clock hits. My dog whines at me, running out of my room with her ears all the way back when I stand. My parents put their shoes on. 

It is the Walking Hour: the hour when people leave their houses at long last — rush hour’s replacement. 

Like a parade, our neighbors saunter in pairs. No audible vehicles make themselves known. I feel as though I am in a time before cars. My family joins the ranks of walkers. My dog barks at the other furry friends in the vicinity, her back hairs ruffled. None of us says much. We simply soak up our outside time. The birds tweet and the sun beams down on us. Flower stems poke out of our mulch. Grass grows greener in every lawn. 

It is in times like these where I find comfort with the situation. The virus reminds me — indeed forces me — to slow down. 

Still, I pray for it to end soon. I miss my friends and I miss life.