Day 27: The Boxer

April 21, 2020

These days, I keep playing The Boxer by Simon & Garfunkel, over and over on my iPhone.

I am just a poor boy/ Though my story’s seldom told/ I have squandered my resistance / for a pocket full of mumbles/ Such are promises.

It’s sad and haunting, not a squint of joy from start to finish. I don’t mean to say I’m always down. But these coronavirus times are sad and hard. Sitting here in my dining room flooded with late afternoon sunshine, steps away from a fully-loaded kitchen, in a home with a grassy yard, on a quiet street full of friendly neighbors, I’m haunted by the tales of want I see online and in my morning newspaper.

All lies and jest/ Still a man hears what he wants to hear/ and disregards the rest

This quarantine period has been marked in our household by some of the most frank, searing conversations we’ve ever had as a family. Each one of us has tried his or her best to say what we mean and feel, directly and with kindness. This has helped us keep friction to a minimum.

I’ve seen the same from our local leaders. Our mayor, Eric Garcetti, recently gave what I thought was one of the most moving and honest political speeches I’ve ever heard. “I’ve never before hesitated to assure you that our city is strong,” he said in his State of the City address. “But I won’t say those words tonight. Our city is under attack. Our daily life is unrecognizable.

“We are bowed and we are worn down. We are grieving our dead.” The mayor paused to swallow back tears. “But we are not broken.”

If you haven’t already, I urge you to watch it. After seeing it, I’d follow this guy anywhere.

But then I turn my attention to the White House, and I’m sifting through piles of rubble to find shards of truth. I read about the governor of Georgia forcing his state open this week while his own mayors plead with their citizens to stay home, and I don’t know whether to hang my head in despair, or yell out in fury.

Laying low/Seeking out the poorer quarters/ where the ragged people go/ Looking for the places/ only they would know

And then there’s the virus itself, or whatever it is that’s lodged in my body and doesn’t want to vacate.

I was in-bed sick for about 10 days, but I’ve not been really well for over a month. Yesterday was the first time in five weeks that I went on a long, aimless walk with the dog and did not have to lie on the couch for hours afterwards. So today, I thought I would add in a 15 minute abs workout.

So, yeah, not a great idea. The tickle that’s been gone for a week returned to my throat. After lunch, I had that tightness in my chest again, along with the chills and body aches. I was able to work only after I lay down for about an hour.

Like the song says, this illness leads you to places only other sick people know. I lack the words to describe this ache that settles on my tongue and this burn that whispers in my throat. How to explain the exhaustion that pulls me to bed as suddenly and surely as a magnet? Or the fear that lingers, despite all reasonable evidence, that the sickness will return and swallow me up again?

I’m not asking for sympathy. I’m lucky. When I’m not shivering on a couch, I know I’m getting better. But this virus is a beast. All this economic disaster we’re facing, all these political battles we’re pitching — it’s so easy to forget they are the sideshow. The virus is the thing, the main attraction, the reason we’re all at home, and angry, and frightened. Frightened if we have it, and frightened if we don’t.

The scariest part is there’s so much about it we don’t understand. Like I’ve experienced, many coronavirus survivors report it lingers for weeks or longer. Why is that? We don’t know why it’s asymptomatic in one body, mild in another and fatal in a third. We don’t even know why some people test positive for the virus and others test negative when they present with the same symptoms.

Lie la lie/ lie la la la lie lie/ Lie la lie, lie la la la la lie la la lie.

In the midst of all this horror and uncertainty, I wish I felt that everyone in charge was telling me the truth. Was acting with the noblest of intentions. Had our nation’s best interests at heart.

Here’s what I do have:

My returning health

My governor and my mayor and (surprisingly) the superintendent of LA Unified, who’s doing his level best to feed anyone who’s hungry, wherever they live, whether they have kids at his schools or not.

The soothing harmonies of Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel, telling an old story that feels new again.