When This Is All Over
A scene from the [hopefully] near future
[SCENE: an exam room in a doctor’s office, sometime in Q1 or Q2 2021]
ME: [rubbing arm] Ouch. Well, that hurt a little, but I’m glad it’s finally over.
NURSE: Now, it’ll take two weeks or so for the immunity to fully kick in, but after that you should be fine.
NURSE: Just stop by the desk on your way out to see if you have a co-pay.
ME: Sure, let me just get dressed first.
NURSE: I told you when you got here that you didn’t need to get undressed to get a vaccine.
ME: I… I haven’t been out much in the last year.
NURSE: [leaves exam room, muttering curses under breath]
ME: What a relief, to finally have the long-awaited coronavirus vaccine. It’s been an awful, difficult, and emotionally trying year, and I now that it’s finally over, I just want to go home and relax, unburdened by the stress of the last—
[a ghost appears]
GHOST: Okay, listen up, asshole.
ME: [squinting] Are… are you… me?
GHOST: You’re damned right I am, and I’m here to remind you of all the promises you made—we made—over the last year.
ME: Is this a side effect of the shot?
GHOST: [shrugs] Probably? We were all surprised when the first company to get a vaccine approved was PepsiCo, but beggars can’t be choosers, right? They had the distribution infrastructure in place.
ME: [looking closely at injection spot] Should it be fizzing?
GHOST: Hell if I know, we’re not a doctor. What we are, though, is somehow who talked a real good game about all the things we were going to do “once this was all over”. Well, guess what, buck-o? It’s over.
ME: [chuckling nervously] I think we all said a lot of things, but I think it’s best to take things slow-
GHOST: WE’RE GOING TO A CONCERT
ME: Sure, I suppose we can get tickets to something soon.
GHOST: NOPE IT’S A DAVE MATTHEWS COVER BAND AND IT STARTS IN TWENTY MINUTES
GHOST: We took the first thing available. Also, we’re hosting a dinner party after the show.
GHOST: Yep. You said we were going to entertain “a lot more”. Said you missed being able to have people over. Well, you’ve got thirty people coming over right after the show, and they’re going to be hungry.
ME: Thirty people??
GHOST: Twenty of them are the band. It’s really quite an impressive act, they do the traditional catalog of Dave Matthews songs but with sort of a ska spin, and the horn section is—
ME: Okay, okay. Please don’t tell me any more about the band.
GHOST: You’re making calzones for all of them.
ME: Sounds like a lot of work.
GHOST: Promise is a promise. Anyways, you’ll want to clean up quick as soon as everyone leaves, because we’re hitting the road first thing in the morning.
ME: Tomorrow? Where are we going?
GHOST: Where aren’t we going? First all, we’ve got to go see both sides of our family.
ME: Sure, that makes sense, I guess.
GHOST: Next, you promised the kids we’d go to DisneyWorld.
ME: I think I phrased that as “we could go someday, but not while this is going on”. It was intentionally vague, y’know, didn’t commit me to a particular timeframe.
GHOST: That is not how the kids interpreted it and they have already purchased tickets on your credit card.
GHOST: Now, on the drive there—
ME: We’re driving there?
GHOST: Sure are, you made plans to grab dinner with seventeen different Twitter friends “as soon as this was over”.
ME: Right, well, I figured we’d spread that out over a span of weeks or months.
GHOST: Nope. They’re all tomorrow. We’re mapping a route to hit them all on the way to Florida.
ME: That feels like a lot of meals in one day.
GHOST: Well, the good news is, you’ll burn it all off, because I’ve signed up us for a running club.
ME: I did?
GHOST: Sure did. They meet at 4am every day to run hills. It’s awful. But you said that you wanted to get back in shape and that you “missed working out with friends”.
ME: Okay, now, I think we all knew that one was just quarantine delirium speaking.
GHOST: [checking list] It’s on the list, buddy. Promise is a promise.
ME: [rubbing temples] What else did I promise?
GHOST: [reading list further] Let’s see… hike the Appalachian Trail… host a weekly book club… join an a capella singing group…
ME: some of these were clearly sarcastic.
GHOST: [ignoring me] Eat at one of those restaurants where they don’t take reservations despite being extremely popular so you have to spend two and a half hours crammed ass-to-elbow with a dozen other people in a stuffy waiting area the size of a phone booth but you all do it because everyone swears they make the best burger in town, and then you have it and you’re like, “yeah it’s good, I guess”
ME: We hate going to places like that!
GHOST: You had gotten very emotional watching an episode of Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives the night you made that particular promise, as I recall it.
ME: Well, that could have been any night in the last year.
GHOST: You even once said that you wouldn’t mind going to a child’s birthday party after being isolated for so long with nothing to do.
ME: Ugh. I knew I was going to regret that one.
GHOST: It’s at a trampoline park where they give the kids boxing gloves for some reason. You’re going to get punched in the groin a lot.
ME: That’s not really that different than being at home. Anyways, what about the good stuff I talked about? Like, taking a trip to Europe?
GHOST: Oh yeah lol no we’re still not allowed back in Europe.
ME: Ah. Right.
GHOST: Tell you what, I’m just going to leave the list here with you, you can read it all yourself. I’m still not sure exactly what the science is behind me being here, if this is just a hallucination or a time travel thing or what, but I should probably disappear before anyone sees me.
NURSE: [opens door] You’re still here? Put on pants and get out!
GHOST: [holding very still]
NURSE: [closes door again]
GHOST: See? That was close.
ME: Okay, listen, I did make a lot of promises during that long year of quarantine about all the things I wanted to do once this was all over, but there’ll be time to get to all of them—in time. I want to take it slow, though, and just appreciate the little things we’ve missed. The simple pleasures of life, of living in the world with a degree of comfort. Sharing proximity with strangers without suspicion or fear. Walking into a store without it feeling like a dangerous mission. Putting the kids on the school bus or or letting them play with friends. Heck, I just want to sit at a bar at 3pm with a book that I’m not really reading, half-watch a sporting event and make small talk with the bartender without feeling like I’m risking my life to do so.
GHOST: [checking watch] You done?
GHOST: Great. Our carpool is waiting outside. We’re going to Bonnaroo.
ME: [feigns a cough] I’m not sure this vaccine worked.
— Scott Hines (@actioncookbook)
Nothing more “I have been quoted in New Yorker” than being a guy reading a book at the bar. Beautiful