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Life In The Age Of Time Stood Still

In the miasma of the Chinese Virus, at least I have my cat.


Waking up is the unnerving part. Another day to dwell inside cut off from the world with only our screens slowly leaking information. Bagheera, my black cat seems confused. She is more attentive than usual and I have the sense she knows something is wrong, or maybe I’m just going crazy. What time is it? What day is it? Does anyone know? Does anyone care?

I’ve always felt that time well spent feels like it goes by very quickly, but in retrospect it feels like it lasted for ages. Now, in the quarantine of our homes and imaginations, time creeps by in the jaundice and two weeks ago feels like it was yesterday. Was it? If hope is the thing with feathers, time is the thing without them.

My favorite play is “A Thousand Clowns,” a jaunty romp by Herb Gardner about an unemployed TV writer caring for his young nephew. At one point Murray, the protagonist played perfectly by Jason Robards in the movie adaptation and with charm by Tom Selleck on Broadway years later, explains why he quit his job on the “Chuckles The Chipmunk Show.” He described sitting on the subway and having no idea what day it was. “I gotta know what day it is,” he says. Indeed.

My friend Epstein came over for pizza and beer in the backyard the other day, Wednesday? I don’t know. But it was nice. Now however, huddled in my Bay Ridge home the wail of ambulance sirens won’t stop. They echo and even overlap. In the slim moments when I don’t hear them birds chirp. Birds don’t know anything and Bagheera wants to kill them. I don’t blame her at this point.

There’s an old Chinese saying, “may you live in interesting times.” Other than the virus, that adage might be the worst cheaply made thing they ever produced. When I was studying acting at NYU a million years ago I had a teacher at the Stella Adler studio that I really disliked. There are two things he said that I have never forgotten. One was “F**k interesting, be real.” The other was, “You’re not an actor David, you’re a writer.” I dropped out.

Xcfghkhj Sorry, Bagheera just stepped over the keys, I think she thinks my laptop is a cat I like better than her. I don’t. It turns out I’m more interested in the interesting than the real. And that’s OK. But this sleepy menagerie of political figures figuring their angles and everyone staying home is weighing heavy. I miss my kid; we all have our troubles in the age when time has no meaning.

I can’t see my ten-year-old son. He’s down the Jersey Shore with his mom, which I mean, thank God. He showed me on FaceTime the blanket fort he built. It’s not bad. And he asks to see Bagheera. I named her that because in Rudyard Kipling’s Jungle Book, which I assume is now considered racist and awful, he was the protector of Mowgli. They miss each other and time is tick-tocking along. What day is it?

I gotta know what day it is. Bagsy Wagsy, I call her that sometimes is asleep in my son’s bed. At least someone is. There is a profound sadness permeating the world. It doesn’t help that the skies are grey in New York and time is an invisible mystery. What shall we do with ourselves? You’d all like Bagheera; she’s a good cat.

Gloves, masks, distance. Gloves, masks, distance. OK. But underneath the discerning concern a riotous desire to live again is jumping into existence. If I can’t touch anyone what am I doing here? Someday, I have no idea when, I’ll touch my son again, and he will get every smooch in the entire world, but for now I can only smooch Bagheera, and she’s putting up with it. Good Cat.

I wonder what she makes of it. My constant presence, the hole my fist put in the wall in anxious anxiety, the constant cleaning, my kitchen actually looks acceptable, that’s not bad. Look for the upsides. You’re not an actor, you’re a writer. I didn’t know what he meant in my shallow twenties. I think I do now. And I hate him less.

The weird thing about Bagheera loving me more is that it reminds me I love all of you. Not as much as my kid, But to some considerable extent. Stay beautiful. Stay wonderful. And be nice to your cat.