I was about two thirds of the way up Machu, dying, biting the inside of my mask to make it hurt less, when I saw a woman maybe twenty steps ahead of me. She was doubled over. Gasping. And to be clear I wasn’t really dying, and it wasn’t really Machu Picchu. I was climbing the Culver steps and she was really hurting. She was way up there. A gust of something blew by me and as soon as my eyes could focus, I saw it was a man. Young and crazy fit. Taking the steps, two, three at a time. Soon as he reached her step, he linked arms with her. I watched her startle for a second, the way any of us would, pandemic no pandemic. He gave her what she needed. Together they got to the top of that mountain. He patted her back; she threw fists up to the sky. Rocky Balboa.
It’s not a great social distancing story. And to be honest I can’t even remember which of them was wearing a mask, I hope both. But as God and every human surviving 2020 knows, with every decision our quarantine weary hearts make, we weigh risk against mental well-being. And I am sharing this story because at the moment, that moment is saving mine.
We are at a byzantine blur of unconscionable consequence. It is more than most of us can stomach. Sleep is impossible. Tolerance feels untenable. And we are all stuck in an insufferable purgatory – predictable yet unpalpable. It is a crossroads deafening in its divisibility, and most of us are buckled at the impossibility of what the other could possibly, inconceivably, want in their want. We are at our breaking point.
There is maybe one thing that unites the states in all our devastating polarity. We are all in a lot of pain.
As I type there are no final verdicts, only predictions, speculations. There is anxiety most certain to leave a lasting mark, historically, humanistically. There is ambiguity and it is mocking my better self, clinging for dear to life to my audacious belief in hope. Irrational, beautiful, radiating hope. Hope for a better next.
I sit here parenting, texting, trembling in an internal tsunami of please God, let the best man win. Let him understand women are not here for decoration. Let him know empathy over arrogance, over entitlement. Compassion over corruption. Seek sovereignty in civility, if we can even remember. I remember. Let the future favor the humble over the bombastic, honor decency over degradation, truth over toxic temper tantrums, find a path for forgiveness from our Founding Fathers, in no nightmare were we ever supposed to arrive here. Let us all look up breathlessly and see one human linking arms with another, rising, because we…we remembered. How to lift one another up.
It is the future I pray for.
It is the one I refuse to unsee.
Jolie Loeb is a Luxury Lifestyle columnist based in Los Angeles.