Postcard From The Pandemic

All of Adana’s therapists had been interested in her survival although that sentiment was a global curiosity. Survival stories of resilient people used to inspire and motivate others who couldn’t even begin to fathom such misfortune. But after the Merciless Spread followed by the Ruthless Contagion, every American citizen was left in a quasi-apocalyptic world that was still functioning and still had billions of people living in it. Millions of Americans had to decide and figure out how to move on with their lives with death all around them. Their individual situations were not unique or special, they were redundant waves in an ocean of despair that had drowned so many.

Above is an excerpt from my manuscript that I have been writing for Antioch University’s M.F.A. program. It follows a young teenage girl, Adana, whose life gets upended when her older sister drops dead in front of her in a phenomenal event  that kills millions of American children under 18 (called the Merciless Spread.) Months later, the same event targets American adults, called the Ruthless Contagion. It only affects the U.S. and after the second events, conspiracy theorist groups rise to god-like status and suggested the 1% is behind it as some sort of population control. So Americans start staging revolts, infiltrating wealthy spaces, neighborhoods, and places to kill the rich. 

In light of recent events, my motivation to write is stagnant. This is my biggest issue and concern; my mind is just not flowing and I just don’t care to write. My manuscript is a story about a quasi-plague that’s only affecting the United States and how the whole country is quarantined until they can figure out the cause. My partner said that our current situation should be inspiring to me; I told him speculative fiction isn’t as fun when you’re living in it.

However, writing must be done so I set a goal of either X amount of pages or time. If I manage to get it done, I get a chocolate chip cookie or video game time.  Here are some other things I’m doing while at home.

1. My 2019 New Year’s resolution was to be conversational in Spanish by the end of the year. That didn’t happen so now, Estoy aprendiendo español via Duolingo. I’m still struggling to make it daily routine, as I don’t have one, so it happens when I remember. But I am learning! Also, thanks to my years in the restaurant industry, I know more Spanish than I thought. I got a lot of food words down, as well as vaso, plato, cuchillo, préndelo and más queso por favor.

2. The Sims 2 was a big part of my twenties. I discovered it after I moved in with some roommates and one of them played it on her computer. I completely took over her game (sorry Emily!) before buying it and all the expansion packs myself. Creating Sims and giving them stories was appealing to me; I could bring some of my writing characters into a world and play out their lives. So now, The Sims 4 is bringing me happiness although I truly miss all the little details that made me fall in love with Sims 2 in the first place.

EA is an evil entity that knows what it’s doing by bundling game content packs. I’ve ordered a couple and The Sims 4 Seasons, one of my favorite expansion packs in Sims 2, has delivered for the current iteration. They’ve added some fun things, like celebrating Sim holiday events and creating your own. You can even meet and befriend Father Winter, who shows up at the fireplace around 8 P.M. on Winterfest night. He’s quite jolly and happy and will give you lots of cool presents. In case it’s not totally clear, I’m living my life vicariously through this game. The high-end camera Father Winter gave one of my sims is being used to take pictures of the outside world and I have made them into a photo mural.

I have two sims, Emmalyn and Jaylen, both geniuses, who hold distinguishable degrees from the University pack.  In the game, you can choose a pre-made Sim from the base pack, or you can download Sims made by other players in the Sim gallery, or you can create your own. All Sims are required to have three specific character traits and one life aspiration (musical genius, world star comedian, serial dater, or super parent to name a few.) I downloaded Emmalyn but created Jaylen because I couldn’t find an acceptable mate for her that didn’t have some troublesome trait (jealous, kleptomaniac, loner, or evil.) They both have engineering jobs and each has hit a couple of life aspirations so now I’m ready for them to start having kids. Except it’s a bit of a long process to raise Sims to children, even more so with the Parenthood expansion pack. You actually have to parent the toddler and children and turn them into productive sims of society. The Sims toddlers, kids and teens will act out and go through phases and the Sim parents have to help them redirect their problematic behavior (or not, you can totally make them societal deviants.) However, in Sims 4, you can create a sim of any age by asking the game to generate a sim using the genetics of at least one parent. I choose Emmalyn and Jaylen and it generated a daughter, Lyla, who is creative and erratic. Then I generated a twin for Lyla, her sister, Dominique, who is an animal lover. Emmalyn is also having issues with her mother, Jo, who got mad that a parenting forum questioned her methods and took her anger out on Emmalyn by throwing a drink on her. I think Jo might have an anger problem because every time Emmalyn invites Jo, Wayde, Adrian (mother, father and brother respectively) over, Jo and Wayde are sad or angry.

3. It was about a year into our cohabitation that  I noticed my partner cooked and ate the same meal every day: fish, vegetables and rice. I mean this literally; it was always steamed tilapia, steamed rice and the same bag of mixed, steamed vegetables. He’d throw in a plain turkey sandwich for variety. (Things got a bit radical when he learned how to make grilled cheese.) But that was all that he ate for a year, possibly longer. When I questioned him about it, he said the process of cooking irked him; it took time that he’d rather devote to something else. He also said it didn’t bother him eating the same thing every day because he hated cooking.  I didn’t realize how serious he was until a package arrived from a company called (seriously), Soylent. He decided this alternative was great because it took all of three seconds to mix the food powder.

I said no, we’re not having something in the house named after one of the greatest movies of all time by some edgy Silicon Valley company (SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS FOR SOYLENT GREEN: Watch the 1970s movie but if you’re not interested, Soylent Industries controls the food supply of half (of the very overpopulated and populated) world and sells the artificially produced wafers, including “Soylent Red” and “Soylent Yellow”. Their latest product is the far more flavorful and nutritious “Soylent Green”, advertised as being made from ocean plankton, but is in short supply. It’s not, Soylent Green is actually made from people.)  I declared that I would make both of our meals (I actually love to cook but it’s not fun when it’s just me.) I had just purchased an instant pot, the most magical thing on Earth, and was eager to utilize all of it.

This new compromise is how I discovered my boyfriend’s taste buds have bougie standards that directly clash with his patience in the kitchen: eggplant parmesan with homemade marina, buttered scallops with bacon, brown sugar and brussel sprouts, Korean-style beef rice bowl with homemade soy sauce, ginger-lime salmon cake lettuce wraps with spicy mayo, orange chicken, red lentil curry, split pea soup. 

I’m not complaining; I love it. I’m the most relaxed in the kitchen, listening to music and now having time to cook these intricate recipes. It makes me happy to see him inhaling my home-cooked pride. And the bonus is that he said he’ll buy whatever appliances I need as long as I keep cooking (if you had told me during my college party days that I’d get the happy taps over kitchen appliances, I’d have looked at you sideways.) I’m learning how to make and perfect my own sauces and our place smells wonderful.  We have appetizers, salads, entrees and desserts. And grilled cheese sandwiches.

4. We have three cats and all of their fur, especially my fluffy kitty, is chinchilla soft. Brushing a cat is very cathartic and their happy purring is quite comforting. Our creatures of habit had a week-long period of adjusting to our new at-home schedules and now, seem to think that we did it to cater and pamper them. What sense of time I have is due to them, as they know exactly when it’s time to be fed.

So that’s my time. Thank you for reading.

Stephanie Teasley is an Antioch University graduate student pursuing her M.F.A. in Creative Writing. A transplant from the Midwest, she has found a great life surrounded by loved ones, both furry and human, in California. Her mixology skills as a bartender have transferred over to her writing, as she slings words around just as much as she does drinks. She enjoys being introverted but doesn’t mind great company.