Via the magic of the internet and limited hardcopy distribution in this troubled age of plague and isolation, I am pleased to welcome myself into your home or whatever other suitably isolated domicile you find yourself occupying. Should anybody be reading this over your shoulder, first inform them of their exquisite taste in free newsprint columns and then demand they return to the requisite six-foot distance. More probably, you are isolated in your home or an essential service of limited staffing, and so are by this time feeling the effects of the prettily-named yet rapidly normalized practice of ‘social distancing.’ I have observed a number of persons beginning to catalogue their riveting new lives across social media, and in these, one cannot help but observe a trend of gradually-evolving but scarcely-contained neurosis setting in upon the now former social butterflies of the world. As those wont to attendance of 10 parties, four weddings, and a funeral each week adapt their habit of self-broadcasting the “everyday” to the new meaning of that term, a curious catharsis is offered the rest of us. Indeed, there is now no influencer so stylish that a vicarious day-in-the-life offers removal from the omnipresent domestic misery which has already typified our own lives. Truly, the playing field is now levelled, and the utopian dream of a world of equal opportunity and experience alike can begin.
For the well-trained elites among us, however, years of constant drill at social isolation through the ostensibly wildest decade of our lives has left us hardened in readiness for this inevitable reckoning. Indeed, I myself boast nearly 25 years of peerless (in the most literal sense of the word) separation from all who might have taught me to yearn for human touch in moments of grief. My heart has thus been rendered a vessel of smoke-stained iron and oxidized valve-chambers, oiled to be made impervious against the milk of human kindness. I pray only that the petty masses will deign to follow my example where I am at last vindicated in my nature, and to learn to live in the socially desolate world of our present disease-ridden Ragnarök. I will at least begin by admitting a momentary and entirely uncharacteristic flirtation with human contact in the earliest stages of our epidemic, which I shall nevertheless here suffer to recount in illustration of a larger aim. Having encountered a young woman of my previous vague acquaintance who seemed distraught by the vanishing of her friends from their usual social haunts, I offered her a bit of refreshment in my home. Taking the resultant twitch of her eye as the incisive analysis of my good nature it surely was, I welcomed her into my abode. I will say for the favour of the lass that she was patient as I forced my door open from its usual congealed sealant of black mold (which has in my own dwelling apparently acquired a degree of sentience and occasionally converses with me, a problem to which most can surely relate). Only once inside did it occur to me that evidence of my most conscientious home improvement project might cause her some distress. As my lease does not provide me with more than a single room, I had taken to the construction of a dividing facade around my bed, assembled largely of stacked takeout boxes. I had resolved at some point to seek some form of mortar for my Hadrian’s Wall, though as with so much in life, the simple marinating of the problem had produced a new perspective, and a number of pleasingly pastel-coloured fungal growths had seen fit to colonize the boxes and seal their structural integrity. My houseguest was distressingly unimpressed with my efforts, my explanation of the project before her crestfallen visage resembling more and more the memories of my father’s distant response to my elucidation of the travails of a childhood model railway set. The girl fled the scene shortly thereafter, and though she said something of contacting the police, I can only ascribe that I received no calling from the boys and girls in blue to the degradation of law and order in the wasteland of our present society.
My purpose in this anecdote, lengthy relative to the space at my disposal, is self-evident I am sure: To survive time alone, get yourself a hobby, even and especially if others don’t understand it. The greater the ratio of friendly misgivings when presented with these hobbies, the more likely one has adapted to surviving in isolation. This formula constitutes, I think, my great contribution to science. If a knowing reader has something to add to this, I welcome it by any form which does not bring us within sniffing distance. I am told I have acquired the odour of mold, but since the beginning of the viral pandemic, I have heard no such complaints. Truly, some of us were made for this age.