January 1, 2021

I’ve been hoodwinked by new years before. There was one in particular that really put one over on me. I was jubilant at the dawn of that new year. I had the highest hopes for my new band in that year. I envisioned great things. There were some great things, but none that I anticipated. Amid the suffering and tragedy that materialized ceaselessly, my definition of great things or good fortune mutated to what could only be interpreted as a series of perverse psychological compromises:

With a disease spreading almost completely unchecked and eliminating a previously inconceivable portion of the population, our modern thresholds of fear and anxiety were re-calibrated to expose our most primordial vigilance and our basest natures. Anxiety and I have been unfortunate companions for more than twenty years. This was a good thing, because these feelings were not new to me. On-the-job anxiety training when survival was truly an open question could have proven insurmountable.

While my country tore itself apart, I took solace in the fact that I had a place to lock myself and my family in. That we were not at risk of being murdered or brutalized by police was a great thing. That more people voted than ever was a great thing, because a change was set in motion that we hope will deliver us from the brink.

That place in which we locked ourselves did not burn when our closest neighbor’s house was completely overtaken by fire. Fewer than 30 feet of property and the hydrant next to my driveway were great things that day. My previous experiences with troublesome neighbors filling my house with the smoke from fire pits and grills became great things. They invoked my instinct to close all of the windows when I first smelled something. A bad memory and an old habit were great things because they saved everything we own from being inundated and destroyed. Through closed windows, I saw the first clouds of toxic smoke emerging from our neighbor’s eaves. The fire chief told me that if I hadn’t called 911, a kid sleeping in the basement, who had no idea what was happening, would never have made it out alive. He also told us to keep a safe distance in case there were gas explosions. My family and I stood down the street in the rain like refugees, watching thick smoke billow into the sky from behind our house. Summer itself was a good thing because the green leaves on that tree didn’t burn, and the fire never jumped to our roof. That day, lockdown was a good thing. Without it, I wouldn’t have been home to dial the phone and my daughter, who was sleeping, would have been there alone.

I required emergency dental surgery during that year. It seemed like once a week for two months, I was being anesthetized in the chair of a dental professional. Each time, the Novocaine and its variants were less and less effective. I blended my food for six months. It was good that the first sign of trouble showed up just as dental offices got the OK to resume their operations. Two months earlier, I’d have been twisting in the wind.

I have not mentioned the year. Let it quite literally never be brought to mind. It took too much from us. Regardless of whether the difficulties I experienced paled in comparison to those that others may have endured, there were hundreds of times when I just wanted to go to sleep and wake up to discover that the horrific year was over. I wanted it to be gone forever. Now that has finally happened.

It’s 2021.

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