Friday, March 27, 2020

Cracks in my invincibilities

I confess now to the conceit that I once felt certain I was going to survive to a ripe old age. 

In fact, when I turned 50 and was asked to include my age on any application, I would write “050,” so confident was I of triple-digit longevity.

And there were times, yes, when I with swelled-head would think I was destined to surpass even 100 years. Say, 105? 110?

No. I was thinking 501.

That, I was sure, would give me all the time I’d need to wring all the fun there was to be had in this wonderful life. 

Now, I wonder if I can make it to next Tuesday.

I will. You will, too. But after lives of so much swagger and gusto it’s odd to feel so vincible.

Have you ever heard that word before? I had not. But I suspected its existence because the French word “invincible” includes the obvious prefix. If insane is the opposite of sane then it stands to reason for every “invincible” — “That which cannot be vanquished, overcome, or subdued; unconquerable” — there’d be a vincible.

Think spring breakers ignoring pandemic-spread guideline restrictions.

Used in a sentence: “Major League Baseball has postponed the season so it may be months before we learn just how vincible the Pittsburgh Pirates really are.”

Really, it’s a nifty word. It’s just one I never believed would apply to me and the whole human race.

I always believed if anything was going to wipe out the human race it would be the human race. There’s a cockeyed comfort to the mindset.

So I was at peace I could at any moment die at the hands of Islamic terrorists, attention-seeking White Supremacists, an impatient roadrager or any garden-variety nuclear oops.

Now, I feel resentful to have overcome so many existential threats only to find myself cowering before a germ.

And our war weapons against this foe — soap & water, social distancing — don’t inspire. They belittle.

I’ve joked that this is the longest I’ve been sober since the 4th grade, but the essence is correct. A friendly tavern has always been my native habitat.

It’s a cruel fate that the things we need to get through any crisis — a friendly handshake, a reassuring hug — are the very things that could fuel the worsening of this one.

I saw a friend the other day. He was on an essential road crew and I was out for a walk. We spoke from across the recommended 6-foot gulf.

“I never realized how dull my life was until I had to stop going to bars and stay in with my family,” he said, laughing but not joking. “I heard  some are saying this could last 18 months. In that time, my wife could divorce me. I could find and marry another woman, wear out my welcome with her and out of pity wind up back with my original wife.

“And there’d be no one to tell the story.”

I love the time I spend with my family, but I’m missing all the time I’d spend at the bars.

I miss my friends, I miss friendly strangers, and I miss the absorbing weirdos who’d spill out wonderfully human stories of incarceration or recklessness when I’d ask them what they’d been up to. 

I miss going to ethnic restaurants, book stores, movie theaters and I miss hearing an audience crack up at one of my book talks.

I miss when people didn’t post on FB that they’d just found some TP with the same euphoria that they used to announce raffle winnings.

I miss when I didn’t wake up feeling so goddamned vincible.

I texted a friend the other day and asked his prediction as to when he believed we convivial people would rise again.

He texted back a single word.


Really, I’m not afraid of Covid-19 or any of the other things that could slay me.

I don’t fear dying.

I fear dying of boredom.

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