If there’s anything that all of this had helped me learn, it’s that I really don’t give a fuck about other people. I know, I know, this is supposed to be a time when we all come together, when we all put effort into caring for each other. I’ve seen the chalk murals in the driveways of houses where children live that read, “Be Kind!” I’ve scrolled past all the feel good blog posts about how all of this will bring humanity closer together. I’m aware of the people in need, the inequality they face and how the system brings them down. Yet still: I don’t fucking care.
It was something that I had always known about myself, but I was used to trying to fit into society. I had a good job, and my coworkers liked me. I had a good living situation, and I got along with my roommates. I had lots of friends, some of them close, some of them passing, and we’d all have a good time going out to bars together. I kept in touch with my mother, even if at times she got on my nerves. Spending so much time around other people had slowly chipped away at me over time. Or perhaps it’s that altruism is infectious, and it would have been impossible for me to be as truly selfish as I wanted to be and still maintain the veneer of a normal life. Who knows.
All I know is that as soon as I stopped being around all those people, I stopped caring for them immediately. I stopped caring about what they did, what was happening, and, most importantly, what they thought of me. When I stopped caring, I realized that I also didn’t care about anyone in the large, faceless mass of society. I didn’t care if any of them got sick, if any of them died, if any of them lost their job, if anyone lost their apartment. I didn’t care about the economy, the weather, or the traffic.
Well, maybe I cared about the traffic. It’s been nice being able to drive 120 mph on the freeway at any time of day. It’s especially nice today. Normally it could take me an hour and fifteen minutes to get to San Jose, but today I’ll make it in thirty five minutes tops. Pedal to the metal, not a care in the world. If the world ever goes back to normal (big emphasis on the if), I’ll definitely miss this. Now that everyone’s trapped in their houses and there’s no place to go, traffic laws have become almost obsolete. Not that I really cared for stop signs and red lights in the past, but there was something holding me back from putting my foot on the gas when I was supposed to have my foot on the break. It was a rote politeness. It was the decent thing to do. But now? Well, society might be collapsing. Who has time to break at stop signs when society is collapsing?
I wouldn’t be particularly concerned if society did collapse. Sure, there would be things that I’d miss. Fully stocked grocery stores. Online shopping. Art museums. Not that I went to art museums very much back then, but it was nice to know that they were there. I wonder if musicians will still exist after this. If we’ll still get new music. Not that I listen to much new music, either. I had settled on a play list full of Three 6 Mafia, Tommy Wright III and D-Lo on my old school iPod for this drive down to San Jose. But if society does collapse, I hope that musicians still make music. I hope humanity doesn’t totally abandon its love for beauty after the simple collapse of the domestic democracy. That would be a shame.
But who knows if society will collapse. Maybe it will just change. It had already started changing. I like some of the new changes. I like wearing face masks everywhere I go now. I had always had a penchant for face masks. I’m not a huge fan of facial recognition technology or the surveillance state, so I was already fully stocked with an array of fashionable face masks. What can I say. I always liked to look good during a robbery.
However, I do not like the lines at the grocery store. I was never a fan of night clubs for this exact reason: I don’t like waiting in lines. I don’t believe in waiting in lines. It’s dehumanizing. Although, it’s not the lines I dislike so much as the security. I liked it in the beginning, when the grocery stores were mayhem, and it was easy to walk in and walk out with a bag full of food. Alas, stealing from the grocery is mildly more difficult now. Poor me.
I looked down at the instructions I had written out on a piece of paper and taped to the dash. It was dark out. I hadn’t driven down here after night in a long time. I was a bit concerned about missing my exit, but even if I did, it would be okay because it’s not like missing my exit would slow me down that much. I’m a smart person. Even without my phone, I’d be able to find my way back to the freeway. Worst case scenario, if I couldn’t find the house, I could just come back tomorrow. It’s not like I had anything to do tomorrow. No one had anything to do ever, really. Sure, I still had work meetings that I had to sign onto for two hours a day, but let’s be honest. No one was getting any work done. How could we? The end of the world was way too distracting.
I understood why my job still made us do those work calls. It was an act of mercy in some way. They wanted to give us structure, even though there was no work to be done. It helped to make sure that no one on the team started spinning off the rails or completely losing touch with reality. Plus it was good for some of my single colleagues who probably looked forward to work calls as the highlight of their day. I could tell who was loneliest based on how much they had to say during the work calls and how much they tried to drag it out. As soon as the work call was over, they’d have no one else to talk to.
The work calls were also a way to distract us, like children, while the leadership tried to make it look like they knew what they were doing even though they were just as in the dark as we were. They wanted to keep us busy while they came up with a plan so that by the time they figured out what to do, we’d be in prime working order. That was fine by me. I knew I was lucky to have a pay check. Plus I didn’t have anything better to do.
My roommates, on the other hand, were starting to piss me off. Unlike my colleagues, with whom I had professional boundaries I could rely on in order to keep them at bay, my roommates seemed perfectly content with making their problems my problems, too. It irritated me to no end that we had to have weekly mental health check ins. I didn’t really care about how they were doing, or what they were crying over today, or how stressful things had become. I knew how stressful things had become. I didn’t need a reminder. I didn’t need them nagging me about washing my hands, or asking where I had been when I was out, or insisting that I spray down the entire house with rubbing alcohol once a day.
I wasn’t particularly concerned about the virus. I knew that if I got sick, I’d probably get better, and even if I didn’t get better, death seemed fine to me. Although I know that’s not what everyone cares so much about. Their main concern was that if I got sick, there was no avoiding infecting other people. It didn’t seem like that big of a deal to me. Vulnerable people were going to die, but the vulnerable people were always going to die eventually. I didn’t know them. I wouldn’t miss them. Even if people I cared about got sick, even if they died, I would be okay.
I wasn’t particularly concerned about the economic impact, either. Sure, a lot of my friends had lost their jobs. I was probably going to lose my job soon, too. But it would be just like the last time this happened and we all lost our jobs. We just so happened to be part of the unlucky ones, the disposable working force. I knew that it didn’t matter if it was a pandemic, a hurricane, or just a bad day on the stock market. Our economic status had always been and would always be precarious. We were always on the brink of financial ruin. It just so happened that this time, it was the pandemic that pushed us over the edge.
At the beginning, I had hoped that all of this would just erupt into mass chaos. In a way it did. In a way it didn’t. For me, it wasn’t chaotic enough. It probably never will be. I thought that we would have gone out there on the first night to start looting. I was looking forward to driving up into the hills and squatting in mansions and robbing rich people at gun point. I wanted to break into Saks Fifth Avenue and steal as much as I could carry. I was read to burn down City Hall. I figured, fuck it, no one’s looking, let’s kill all the rapists while we’re at it!
Instead, the reaction felt fairly anodyne. Rent strike? That’s it? That’s the best we could come up with? How many times had I seen people post things like “Eat the Rich” or “ACAB” only to reveal themselves to be Instagram posers who still pay full price for their groceries and waffle about paying rent on time. I guess if you want something done right, you gotta do it yourself. That’s why I’m driving to San Jose in my shitty, grey 1997 Honda Civic at 10pm on a Tuesday night.
Maybe things will change after all of this. Maybe they will get better. Maybe they will get worse. I’m not terribly invested in either outcome, mostly because I know that things will continue, regardless. And I will still be here, like a cockroach. I don’t really want to be here, but, I’ll admit it, I don’t really have anywhere else to go. Maybe I’m being uncreative, but maybe I don’t need to be creative. I’ll survive whatever comes next. That’s a given. Besides, being inside and alone doesn’t really bother me. I’m doing quite well, actually, thanks for asking. I’m not one of those insufferable extroverts. I don’t need my self worth to be defined by other people. I’m not dying for attention or physical touch. I don’t feel badly for anyone who is suffering from lack of social oxygen.
However, I do feel badly for the children. They don’t deserve this. This isn’t their fault. I think that’s where we really messed up. But, then again, that’s usually where we mess up. It’s why I’m driving to San Jose.
Yes, I did manage to find my exit. I’ve never been to this part of San Jose before. It is exactly as middle class yet unrefined as I thought it would be. I know, I know, you’re probably wondering: how did I find the address without raising any suspicion? It’s wild, really, the kind of things you can find on the Internet. People are really into putting all their personal information out there. It wasn’t very hard to find the address.
I think I’m almost there. Oh, I’m feeling very excited. Perhaps being cooped up in my house has been taking an emotional toll. I mean, I wouldn’t be here, doing this, if it hadn’t. Although, this isn’t an emotional toll. This has been an emotional opportunity. I’ve spent so much time getting to know myself. There have been parts about myself that I never knew existed until the pandemic. And I never would have known they had existed if it weren’t for the pandemic. Sure, maybe I could have spent three weeks on a yoga retreat and gotten to know myself within that context. But that would have been so contrived. So privileged. Being forced into isolation creates a different psychological context. Facing the daily anxieties of society on the verge of collapse has unearthed some emotions that I don’t think I ever would have touched otherwise. It has been beautiful.
Oh, here I am. This must be it. I was glad to see that he lived in his own house that he rented. This would make things much easier for me. It was a modest one bedroom house. It wasn’t in total disrepair, but it was obvious that there hadn’t been much upkeep over the years. That didn’t surprise me. I didn’t really expect a man like this to live somewhere stately or to care about things like creating a beautiful and comfortable living environment for himself.
I knocked on the door. I saw the light in the living room was on. The TV was blaring. He was probably sitting in front of it in some ratty arm chair, too close to the TV, making his way through a twelve pack of Natty Ice. What else would he be doing? What else did he have to give to the world? I knew he lived alone. Not that I was surprised to learn he lived alone. A man like that? No, no one should be burdened with loving him. Or living with him. Or even having to ring up his groceries at the grocery store. But – calm down. One step at a time, baby girl. You got this.
“Who dere?” he said in his scruffy voice through the door. God. What a horrible voice. The very sound of his voice made me shudder. But that was okay. I wouldn’t have to hear it again after this.
“Hi, hello, sir, can you please help me? I’m lost and I don’t know how to get home!”
He looked through the peep hole. He saw he standing there, on his stoop, in my plaid mini skirt and high heels and pig tails, looking helpless.
“Hm, okay,” he said. He opened the door. I could tell by the look in his eye that he was excited to see me. He let me in.
“Lemme help you. Come in, I’ll write down some directions for you. Do you want a beer?” he said, ushering me to the couch. It looked exactly as ugly on the inside as I thought it would. Everything in there was faded, stacked up, slightly rancid. There was no touch of color, no flicker of joy. Just the functioning of a house, with a couch, and a chair, and a table, and, yup, there it was. Oh – so close! Not a twelve pack of Natty Ice. A twenty four pack of Miller Lite. I had almost guessed right.
I didn’t want a beer.
“Yes, I’ll take a beer,” I said. I walked behind him towards the beer, and as he bent over to grab a beer I did what I came to do. I stabbed him in the neck.
I didn’t hesitate. I knew that it would take more than one. I just had to keep stabbing, straight into the neck, down towards the lungs. There was so much blood, but I knew that there would be a lot of blood. I just kept stabbing. And stabbing. And stabbing. And stabbing.
Okay, breathe. Take a breath. Is he dead? Yeah, he’s dead. There’s no way he can still be alive. Too much blood. The blood is everywhere. Fuck, that’s a lot of blood. Okay – no, don’t panic. I knew that there would be a lot of blood. Just – okay, what was the plan? Oh, yeah. Take it all off.
In a flash, I stripped off my heels, the thick wool tights, the mini skirt, the long sleeve shirt, and the gloves. I balled them up with the knife, stuck them in the bag, put on the latex gloves, and went back to the car. I started the engine and drove away at exactly the speed limit.
Don’t get lost. All I had to do was not get lost. I had to get out of the neighborhood without being too suspicious. A girl driving away in nothing but her underwear? Very suspicious. All I had to do was get back to the freeway, then I would take the long way back, cross the bridge, and toss everything out into the water. Just keep driving. Don’t think about it. Just keep driving.
I had to change the playlist. Time for oldies. Something soft. Something to calm my nerves. Oh, that’s right, my nerves. I had done myself the favor of stashing a mini bottle of mezcal in the cup holder. Time to drink that.
As soon as I crossed the bridge, I chucked everything out the window. Okay. That wasn’t very hard was it? I’m doing okay, right? The Isley Brothers made such great music. How do I feel? Do I feel great? Good? Bad? My heart is definitely still racing, but that will subside. Did I get away with it? Oh, fuck. That was wild. That was intense.
Suddenly, I was back home. I pulled down the block a bit, in front of the park, and opened the mirror. Yes, there was blood on my face. But I had alcohol wipes for that. I wiped my face off. I I grabbed the dress and jacket from the back seat. I put my shoes on. I’d need to take a shower immediately when I got in. Okay, one last check. How am I doing? Am I a changed woman now? I looked myself squarely in the eyes in the mirror. Nah. Same me.
I tip toed back into the house. I was hoping you’d be asleep when I got in. If you weren’t asleep, I was going to tell you that I spilled sauce on my legs and needed to shower. But you were asleep. Thank goodness.
I grabbed the bong and sat on the toilet, getting stoned. I took a long shower. My heart was still racing. I would need my heart to stop racing.
Of course I couldn’t sleep. I tried not to think about it too much. I surprised myself. I wasn’t particularly concerned with what had happened. In fact, it was easy. Easier than I imagined. Sure, my heart was still bursting out of my chest with anxiety, but that would pass. I would fall asleep. I would wake up, and I’d still be myself. I looked at you, asleep next to me. You looked beautiful. I knew that when we both woke up tomorrow, we’d still be us. But the world would be a better place for you tomorrow. You just didn’t know it yet.
You found out a few days later. Your cousin called you and told you. I knew that this was going to happen, so I was prepared. I had a bottle of vodka on hand as well as your favorite icecream.
“He’s dead,” you said. The phone dropped from your hand in shock. I knew you wouldn’t be happy at first, but eventually you would be happy. And that made me happy.
“Are you okay?” I asked with the sincerest concern.
“I…I don’t know. All I’ve wanted was for him to be dead. And now that it’s finally happened…”
You burst into tears. And I was there for you, with open arms.
“Come here, baby. It’s okay. At least you know he’ll never hurt you again.”
You struggled for the first few days. But that was okay. I was ready for this. Eventually, your depression passed. You came out of your funk. You started smiling again. You started drawing again. The lock down still hadn’t ended. I’d sit in the living room and take my work calls, and you’d work on your comic strip while watching TV. We’d spend the rest of our time in bed together, watching movies and eating the rib eye steaks I stole from the grocery store. It was like heaven there with you. I know people say that the quarantine is a trial run for living together, but I always knew I could have done this with you. All I had ever really wanted was to be with you, undisturbed by the rest of the world. All I ever wanted to do was take care of you and have you there by my side. I love you. Isn’t that what love is? Isn’t that would it should be?
“Man, I really thought that I’d be more productive during this quarantine!” you said to me.
“That’s okay. You don’t have to be productive. The point of the quarantine isn’t to be productive.”
“You’re just saying that because you love me. But I bet you’d love me more if I finished this fucking piece!”
“I couldn’t imagine loving you any more than I already do. But I’ll try.”
You smiled at me. It was so good to see you smile.
“I do think that something good will come of all of this,” you said.
“Yeah, like what?”
You looked at me with intent. Your voice lowered a bit.
“I think the point of the quarantine is to become the very best versions of ourselves that we can possibly be.”
I smiled back at you. “Well, then I think we are having a very productive quarantine.”