“There Is No Hope, But I May Be Wrong”

Melencolia I by Albrecht Dürer, 1514

We compose our opinion pieces, writing anywhere from 400 to 1000 words. Most of us use “we must” and “we should” and “we need” and conclude with a paragraph that offers hope.

Well, I’m pretty fucking far from hopeful.

It’s this virus, COVID-19, that’s changing nearly every aspect of our waking hours, dictating who, what, how, when, and where. We can now add how many to that list. How many people can gather without being in violation of The Restrictions? How many people do I know who have tested positive for the virus, who think they had it, think they have it, who have it and are asymptomatic? How many people has it killed?

How many rolls of toilet paper do I use in a week, do I have now, will I be able to purchase when I’m down to my last two or three?

COVID-19 also has changed our night hours, dictating our dreams, the number of times we wake, how many minutes or hours it takes to return to sleep.

Back to the waking hours. I’m checking in even more frequently with my children and my siblings. Each morning, I text my sons with “everybody okay?” And I wait anxiously for a yes. Phone conversation with my best friend is almost always interrupted now by a call from my brother M (more on M later) or my sister. My guy R texts at 8:00 before coming over to drink his coffee. Our conversations run a broad range, from the latest Trump chaos, to Biden’s dementia, to the utterly asinine, such as the number of toilet sheets each of us uses. (I’ve also had this conversation with my sister and my best friend.) A few days ago, this led to something way less dignified than asinine as we descended into potty talk (also known as vowel movements), you know, consistency—the many categories of bowel productions. I’ll end this paragraph with R’s mention of a dangler to which I replied, “Do you mean dingleberries?”

The above paragraph is too personal, I know.

And, suddenly, more becomes personal. That little independent bookstore. Will it survive? What about the employees? The Indian restaurant (that feeds the homeless [more on the homeless later] at lunchtime) whose owner once said she barely makes it from month-to-month. What’s she doing now? How can takeout sustain her business, her employees? How many of her employees are now unemployed?

How long does a check for $1200. maintain those whose job loss could result in permanent unemployment?

Back to my brother M who’s an entertainer—a magician with a huge business, booked solidly throughout the school year, presenting educational shows. Booked solidly throughout the year for adult parties as well as children’s birthday parties. Booked solidly during the summer at fairs. Bookings now canceled. Last week, M started working in a nursing home at the reception desk, taking temperatures, making sure each physician assistant who arrives to see a patient doesn’t have a fever and wears a mask. He sanitizes the pen the PA uses to sign in, then escorts him/her to the patient’s room. He also returns to the room to escort the PA from the building. When M calls and says he’s depressed, I tell him I understand but remind him to be grateful he has a job, albeit a risky one, when so many people have lost theirs. His wife is director of nursing at a clinic. Her hours have been reduced by half and she too is working at the same nursing home.

What about our homeless population? The man who walks past my building multiple times daily, wearing a black blanket, like a cape, secured at the neck and dragging along the sidewalk. I’ve diagnosed Cape Man and, as you know, I’m severely unqualified to do this, but he must be schizophrenic, because usually he’s talking, perhaps to voices in his head, shouting “bitch, fuck you, fuck you, you bitch.” One day when I was standing at the window, looking across at him, he wasn’t yelling. He looked up. I didn’t know if he could see me, so I waved. He smiled, a grand smile, and waved back.

Following news of the virus, its spread, confirmed cases, populations hit hardest, I wonder if there can be a return to normal. And then I ask: What is normal? My normal isn’t my brother’s normal. My brother’s normal isn’t the normal of someone who has no chance of finding employment. Our normal is not and has never been Cape Man’s normal.

I’m going to stand and watch for Cape Man. I’m pretty fucking far from hopeful, but I’m hoping to see that grand smile—his smile that brings me to tears.

As Pete Seeger said, “There’s no hope, but I may be wrong.”

More articles by:

Missy Beattie has written for National Public Radio and Nashville Life Magazine. She was an instructor of memoirs writing at Johns Hopkins’ Osher Lifelong Learning Institute in BaltimoreEmail: missybeat@gmail.com

August 04, 2020
B. R. Gowani
Mohammed Rafi: Singer and Human Par Excellence
David Krieger
Eight A-Bomb Haiku
August 03, 2020
Linda Pentz Gunter
The Resistible Rise of Nuclear Gangsters…and Their Downfall
John G. Russell
The Sleep of Reason Produces Monsters
Cal Winslow
Their Heroes and Ours: California’s Health Care Crisis
David Barber
Renouncing White Privilege: A Left Critique of Robin DiAngelo’s “White Fragility”
Linda G. Ford
Free Joy Powell! America’s Political Prisoner for Fighting Police Brutality
Prabir Purkayastha
Trump’s Withdrawal From WHO: a Cover-Up for His Abject Failure on COVID-19
Dean Baker
The Plunge in Consumption of Services Leads to a Record 32.9 Percent Drop in GDP
Ramzy Baroud
Human Rights Defenders: Palestinian Eyewitness Testimony of the Execution of Abdul Fattah al-Sharif by Israeli Soldier, Elor Azaria
Karen J. Greenberg
Accountability is Gone in America
Cesar Chelala
A Wrong Message for the Pandemic
Jonah Raskin
Chesa Boudin: Reformer in the San Francisco DA’s Office
George Wuerthner
Forest Plan Failure in the Montana Rockies
Ralph Nader
Speaker Nancy Pelosi Writes to Me!
Laura Flanders
Take on the Tech Mob Now or Perish
CounterPunch News Service
Conservationists Intervene to Oppose New Dam Project Near the Grand Canyon
Weekend Edition
July 31, 2020
Friday - Sunday
Bette Lee
Tear Gas and Thugs at the BLM Protests in Portland
Rob Urie
Russiagate, Nazis, and the CIA
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Demon Seed
T.J. Coles
The Space Wars Have Begun
Andrew Levine
Insurgents and Iconoclasts Needed (But for Now Lay Low)
Paul Street
“Time to Say the F-Word”: Why Now?
Matthew Scully
The Triple Antagonist of the Police, Policing, and Policy
Richard D. Wolff
The Consequences of Inequality Can Be Fatal
Richard C. Gross
Feds Give In, Maybe
Erik Molvar
Inside Trump’s Attack on America’s Environmental Charter
W. T. Whitney
“We Charge Genocide:” Forerunner at UN of Black Lives Matter
Brett Wilkins
The Bologna Massacre, the ‘Strategy of Tension’ and Operation Gladio
Nick Pemberton
Does The Left Stand With Uighurs?
Cesar Chelala
Donald Trump’s Misguided Attacks on WHO
Barbara G. Ellis
A Portland ‘Sit-Down’ Can Rock Trump’s Boat
Nancy J. Altman
On Medicare and Medicaid’s 55th Birthday, Let’s Expand Benefits—Not Cut Them
John O'Kane
Systemic Racism And Progressive Reconstruction
Binoy Kampmark
Julian Assange’s Political Indictment: Old Wine in Older Bottles
Ramzy Baroud
List of Targets Leaked: Israel Fears the Worst in ICC Investigation of War Crimes
Marshall Auerback
Every Step the EU Takes Toward Financial Unity Sows New Seeds of Its Potential Collapse
Bob Fitrakis - Harvey Wasserman
Fascist Ohio’s Bribed $60 Million Nuke Reactor Meltdown
Walden Bello
Could the Duterte Regime be COVID-19’s Next Victim?
Jonathan H. Martin
Bernie Groups Break Free of Dems: New Party Rising?
Ron Jacobs
Hunting with the Father
Michael Welton
What Does It Mean To Tolerate Others?
Eve Ottenberg
Climate Change is Genocide
Serge Halimi
The Twenty Years War
Kathy Kelly
Yemen: a Torrent of Suffering in a Time of Siege