I’m in Detroit this week, and for all kinds of reasons Covid feels like less of a presence in my life here than it ever has before. Some of it is just that Detroit is an emptier and more spread-out city—a restaurant at 25% capacity in New York feels conspicuously empty, but a restaurant at 25% capacity in Detroit doesn’t necessarily feel any less crowded than it’d normally be. Some of it is that a critical mass of my friends here are vaccinated by now. And some of it, I’m sure, is just that Michigan is Michigan, and people here take Covid less seriously. Even my liberal friends in Michigan’s most liberal city have what I can only describe as a certain Michigan flavor to their liberalism.
Mostly what I notice is just how normal it all feels. Over the past year I’ve thought hundreds of times about how weird it was going to be to eat inside at a restaurant again, and then I finally did it and it was so mundane that I didn’t even realize the moment I’d been anticipating had passed. Last night, as I was falling asleep, I noticed that it’d been a full 24 hours since I’d even thought about Covid, and it reminded me of what it feels like to get over heartbreak—after months or years of thinking about them every day you notice all of a sudden that for the first time in a while you haven’t been, and even though that noticing is itself a form of thinking about them, you still feel better. And you realize, maybe, that you’re at the beginning of the end.
There’s all this discourse around the idea of getting “back to normal,” this pointless and unending debate over whether by this time next year we’ll have slipped back into the way things were or remained irrevocably changed. And as always the truth is somewhere in the middle. We’ll be forever altered and back like we were in no time; we’ll think we remember this time forever yet mostly remember the stories we tell ourselves.
We’ll wait eagerly for the moment when things have finally gone back to normal only to one day look around and realize that normal arrived quietly, while we weren’t looking, and we didn’t even notice.
Yours in realizing that juggling writing this newsletter and having a social life again is going to be more complicated than I thought, and in deeply regretting not having gotten started on this week’s issue earlier,