Covid Diaries (contd.)

It is a clear, crisp day in LA. Summer is (almost) out of the door. Yes, you will say it is always summer in LA. But, it isn’t. If it is not 70 degrees, it is not summer. I have become a hipster nomad, which is an actual term coined by Airbnb folks for people who live in Airbnbs. Essentially, I have become the opposite of parent talk for ‘you need to settle down‘. Predictably, I love it. In spite of the fact that this year is batshit crazy and every time you think it can’t get worse, it does.

I have found a new favorite cafe – Intelligentsia cafe in Silver Lake. As I change neighborhoods every month, I diligently map the area for cafes and restaurants. So, this month, it is this red brick, large patio coffee shop with the best cortados. Even in a dark year, this place has a vibe that can (almost) make you forget that something is amiss this year. But then you see everyone wearing masks, and you come back to this virus-year pretty quickly. I am sharing my (fairly large) table with another guy. We are both not wearing a mask. Don’t judge – he is definitely more than 6 feet apart and we do need to drink our coffees afterall. It is October, and this is probably the first time in over 6 months that I am sharing a table with someone I don’t know. It feels human. God, I miss feeling human.

The cafe in front of me seems to be opening soon. There is an old man diligently putting in markers for where customers can stand. Measuring 6 feet distance between the markers with a tape et al. It is amazing what humans can get used to. None of it feels foreign. The 6 feet markers, the masks, the signboards of caution. I was reading this book called ‘The Plague’ by Albert Camus. Such an apt read for this year. Camus writes –

Our fellow citizens had fallen into line, adapted themselves, as people say, to the situation , because there was no way of doing otherwise. Naturally they retained the attitudes of sadness and suffering, but they had ceased to feel their sting.

The Plague, Albert Camus

Maybe we too have forgotten the sting, and adapted. Atleast, for now.

I was having a refreshing chat with Ma today. Beyond our usual chats around whether I am eating, breathing and living. Conversations about raising kids, being single, finding a partner and life in general. Hers and mine. As we grow up, there is a line we cross. A line of adulthood, where our relationship with our parents becomes one of open conversations and friendship. Does not mean that either of us stop worrying about each other obsessively. But, to be seen as an adult by one’s parents is a novel feeling. For me, we crossed that line gradually and eventually. Last few years have turned the tide of our relationship. Learned that talking about something is the only way to not make it scary. Learned that love beats all prejudice and reservations. Saw my set prioritize their love for me over every notion they had about life and how they see it. And that is hard. To accept and love someone, when every cell in your body says I am not comfortable.

This month had a day tagged as National Coming Out Day. While I am not a fan of these numerous ‘days’, I give this particular day a giant hall pass. It has been close to four years of volunteering with Trevor Project. For those who know me, you know how this place has transformed my life. Through the Trevor Project, I get to tell someone every week that being you is absolutely okay. Every day some kid is coming out to their parents and loved ones. Every day, these parents and loved ones have a choice. To embrace or to reject. If you had the choice, and you embraced, remember that you changed someone’s life completely. In a very warm way. Coming out probably was the hardest and scariest thing your kid did in their lifetime. And if you were the person who normalized it and made them feel loved, you are winning as a human being. You are probably what the world needs, not only this year but every year.

Coming back to my coffee and this year, a group of kids just took the table in front of mine. All are wearing white tees and denims. A code of camaraderie maybe? Hanging on to their iced coffees and matcha lattes, they are laughing and probably talking about things I don’t even understand anymore. Yet, I understand the affection. The day is slowly warming up, in true LA fashion. My cortado is almost done. A long walk back home beckons. Yes, I call these temporary stays as home now. Someone I love often told me that home is rarely bricks and walls; it is the notion of feeling grounded, be it in a place or with a person. Or hopefully both.

Towards the end of the book, Camus writes –

While intensifying their desire to be set free, the terrible months they had lived through had taught them prudence, and they had come to count less and less on a speedy end of the epidemic.

The Plague, Albert Camus

Maybe this epidemic is never going away. Maybe we will all learn to live differently. And not only make peace, but love the new normal. Masks or no masks, maybe we will go back to appreciating what we have – the warmth of the sun, the love and laughter of dear ones and the camaraderie of white tees and blue denims.

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