After the Pandemic: What Matters Now?

yoga on a foggy morning in DC

A friend asked me if I’m writing anything.

During the pandemic, I wrote LIKES, a book of short stories about social media.

But now I’m writing nothing.

My books have always been very topical. I write about the times. LIKES is about about social media obsession, THE SWAMP concerns DC during the Obama years and MURDER ON U STREET is a story about gentrification.

Yet, I cannot write about the coronavirus or the other traumas of the past year, like the January 6th assault on the Capitol. My fiction reworks reality, reframing it and pouring it into the mold of dark comedy. But 2020 was too deadly and chaotic to turn into anything coherent.

With vaccines and seasonality, coronavirus in America is ebbing. DC is springing back to life, full of people once again, the empty streets of last year now just a memory.

During the pandemic, every choice you made had meaning. Even the simplest ones. I felt accomplished just biking to 350 Bakery for a scone. Riding a bike kept me healthy while spending my money locally kept people employed.

Now that era is over and the American consumption machine is roaring back to life. Storefronts are no longer dark and brunchgoers fill 14th Street again.

On Saturday, I was at the Lincoln Memorial. The steps were crowded with people, a yoga class was going on, joggers were going by. It was beautiful to see.

And yet, seeing normal life resume made me feel: too soon.

Two weeks after I got vaccinated, I went to a bar. Something I had been looking forward to for months. With antibodies in my veins, I could drink beer and eat wings again. I could sit at a table and talk to other humans.

Yet, it was not as satisfying as those early-morning bike trips to 350 Bakery. I’d take bikeshare, buy a scone and then walk home.

Life during the pandemic gave me purpose, imbuing even the simplest of actions with meaning.

Normal life is returning. In America, that means a frenzy of buying and selling. Our nation is gearing up to spend once again.

I’m not writing because I can’t answer the question: what matters now?

Author: Joe Flood

Joe Flood is a writer, photographer and web person from Washington, DC. The author of several novels, Joe won the City Paper Fiction Competition in 2020. In his free time, he enjoys wandering about the city taking photos.

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