A Journal of the Plague Year 2021–chapter 190

Monday, February 1

It showed overnight—by 9 a.m., only about an inch, but it’s still continuing to snow off and on. The National Weather Service says that by early afternoon, there will be a combination of rain and snow that could be heavy at times. Also, it’s supposed to be very windy and cold. Total accumulation could be from 3 to 7 inches. Tomorrow, though, there’s supposed to be light rain, and the low is to be only 35F—so maybe any accumulated snow will melt. Then, there could be more snow, with little accumulation.

In the city and points west, it’s colder than it is here and total snow could be up to 14 inches. By Thursday, temps should be in the upper 30s.

Just before I awoke, I had the following dream: We are staying at a large, colonial house with a big front porch. When we drive up, we find that there are three dogs waiting on the porch. Two are German shepherds and one is a small English bulldog. (Could these be the Bidens’ dogs? Hmmm, a large colonial house….) No humans are around. The shepherds, with their expressive faces, seem a bit unhappy. Do they belong to the owner? Do they want to go inside? We leave and when we come back again, they are still there waiting. I find a couple of buckets and put water in them for the pups to have a drink. What to do?

The New Yorker has a sad and frightening article by a Midwestern professor whose wife one day begins having hallucinations. An art lecturer, she takes students to museums for discussions of paintings—and the students tell him, confidentially, that she has been describing figures in the paintings who aren’t in fact there. She also begins imagining people in their house, such as The Flowery Man (in actuality, a hallway flower pot).  Having read that it does no good to deny the presence of such figures, he plays along, even providing a place setting at the dinner table for one such visitor.

Then one day, the police and an ambulance arrive at the door. It seems the woman has been having over-the-backyard-fence conversations with neighbors about her visitors. They take her away to a hospital, but by now the pandemic has hit and the husband is not allowed to visit. After a bit, though, he is discovered to be suffering from malnutrition and exhaustion, and he is admitted to the same facility but not allowed to see his wife. Before long, he is sent to a psychiatric hospital and his belt and shoelaces are taken away from him. Their daughter having signed the proper forms, the wife is driven away to a different state where she is to live in a long-term care residence. There, she will die of COVID-19. The professor has been allowed to return to his home, and his last communication with his wife is a phone call in which he reads her a poem.

Horrifying, no? Could my dreams turn to such hallucinations? Could Emily and I be forcibly separated for some reason?

We’re doing O.K. for now, but the article’s subtle description of these folks’ slow drift into mental illness, old age, decrepitude, and institutionalization—well, you know, it’s likely to happen to all of us. The only really new wrinkle in the story is the addition of COVID-19. I’d just as soon avoid that, thank you very much, but no vaccines seem available to us. It can seem as though only the likes of Mia Farrow,  Queen Elizabeth, and those whose institutional affiliations—such as our twentysomething niece or a friend of Emily’s—are getting the shots.

Emily reads that the snow has led to closing of the state’s vaccination sites. So all those lucky enough to have an appointment for a shot will now have to reschedule. Do they have to go to the end of the queue?

At night we lost electricity at around 8 p.m. But it came back on at 9:36. Then came a succession of five phone calls from PSEG-LI, the utility, saying that the electricity had come back on, then that it was expected to come on by 4 a.m. or maybe 4:30 a.m. One phone call’s robot voice said simply: “System error. Try again later.”

Dinner: turkey chili and a salad.

Entertainment: half of an episode of The Bay on Britbox. Then the electricity failed.