ANXIETY CHAMPIONSHIPS

It has been a year of anxiety, but I could enter the championships. Today’s news was hidden in small type on page 8 of our newspaper. “Why didn’t you tell me?” I demanded. “What’s the use of being married to an astronomer? There’s a whopping great asteroid heading towards the earth, and tomorrow’s the day.”

“Well, it’s not actually…”

“Not worth mentioning to amateurs?” I interrupted. I waved the article. A ruddy great asteroid, with a name like a phone number, (52768) 1998 OR2, was just one day away.

The astronomer was unmoved. He, NASA, the Jet Propulsion Lab and a few other experts, believe it will miss us by a fair margin. To be on the safe side, we should wear a mask.

Am I reassured? Not really. Just to list a few recent topics of concern: Dying gasping of Covid-19. The low recovery rate of patients on respirators. Total strangers, decades my junior, calculating my Quality Years of Remaining Life. The shortage of mature age flu vaccine. The possible side effects from the vaccine when you do get it.

Terrible medical news in the international press. The uptick in heart attack deaths in Brooklyn and Queens (probably virus-related). Hypoxy, a term of pure horror.

2020 anxiety portrait

No end of things to fret about. Decision fatigue. Greyzone coercion. The international information contest.

“Just going down to check the post,” I say. The postie arrives just as I open the door, so I congratulate him on our mutual second sight. He has even better news for me. “We’re both so good-looking,” he says, “that neither of us can possibly catch Covid.”

Just for now, I haven’t a worry in the world.

–PENELOPE NELSON

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