I was standing in line at my favorite Italian grocery store in the North End on Saturday morning absentmindedly gazing at olives and cheeses when the woman in front of me took a big step backwards to look at something on the shelf to our left. When she stepped backwards, I stepped back as well so that we could keep six feet between us. I had no problem with her stepping back, and I didn't really think much of my own accommodating backwards step. Unfortunately, she had a different reaction to our interaction. She glared at me, sighed loudly, rolled her eyes, and very obviously complained about me to her young son and husband. I was a little thrown by this. I was honestly doing what I thought we were supposed to do in stores right now to keep each other safe. I didn't think it would set this woman off. A few minutes later it was my turn, I picked up my bag of Italian goodies and left. As I walked across Hanover Street to meet Doug I realized I had that shaky "I just did something wrong and I'm embarrassed" feeling coursing through me.
I've been dreading this. Last April - almost a year ago - I remember telling a friend I was worried that I'd have a tough time adjusting back to normal life when the pandemic subsided. I never imagined it would go on as long as it has. I don't think anyone did. Now that the vaccines are rolling out and things are starting to open back up a very big part of me is relieved and thrilled. First, I'm happy that people can stop getting and dying from this awful virus. I also can't wait to hug my parents, see friends, go to a ballet performance, eat in a restaurant, get a haircut, and explore my new town in a spontaneous way. There is another part of me that is really scared. A big part of me. And this angry woman in Salumeria Italiana has really freaked me out.
What if I go back to my office and someone wants to stand right at my desk talking to me? I'll faint. I'll run away from them and they'll think I'm insane. What if I get on the bus and it gets a little crowded? I'll get off in the middle of nowhere and cry by the side of the road. Am I going to be stepping away from people and offending them left and right? What if a close friend has a party and I'm just... not ready?
My hope is that everyone will be patient and kind as we come to the other side of this. It's going to take me a while to feel excited about or even comfortable doing so many things that would have seemed simple to me 13 months ago.