Windsor, Ontario, where I live, has Canada’s warmest winters outside of British Columbia. As I start writing this on April 23 though, it’s been snowing on and off. Daily cold-weather records have been broken. Yesterday I geared up for a walk, went out the door, and it immediately began hailing.
Early springs aren’t common where I grew up: Oregon, where once the rains didn’t clear until June, and Manitoba, whose winters need no preamble. I like to think I’m tough when it comes to weather, but right now’s been hard.
Cold mandates insulating the body, wrapping layers around skin to keep it from the air. You’re encouraged to move the body to keep blood flowing, and you also spend as little time outdoors as possible. You don’t visit certain places for months. It’s all so much worse if you’re poor. If it persists deep into spring, the psychic toll can be very wearying.
Some analogies are too on the nose to ignore, you know?
In a long winter, my body can enter an amnesiac stasis. I forget the world can be another way.
In a long winter, my body can enter an amnesiac stasis. I forget the world can be another way. I see a picture of a park in summer and my brain gears jam: “What’s that? — Oh right, grass! Ah yes, grass, a thing that exists.”
The analogy to COVID-19 breaks down here: Winter can often end later than I’d like, but every year it still ends. One more month is always doable. Surviving another five, 10, 18 months? That would be impossible. Right?
I’m watching Placebo videos tonight. I luxuriate in YouTube rabbit holes. Sometimes it gets weird. One week I re-watched The Voice over and over. When Grey sings Kelly Clarkson’s Already Gone? That’s the good stuff right there.
Certain past stretches of my life I’d describe as bleak. I’m transgender, and a lot (though not all) of those stretches were tangled up in that fact. I was sure my dysphoria would never go away. I was convinced I could never be a girl. Then, as I slowly came out, I had new problems — the world doesn’t treat transgender women that kindly. I thought my life would be darkness if my life continued at all. In those years, it was so hard to see a long-term future.
It’s been 42 days since I did something like normal life — March 12, pizza in a brewery. If the next morning you’d told me I’d be going into lockdown for at least 42 days, and that after those 42 days I’d still have no idea when it would be over? I would have completely freaked out.
Six weeks from April 23 is June 4. I calculate this often, pretending I’m halfway – imagining I’m not at least halfway brings mental terror, it feels impossible.
As I finish writing this, it’s May 4, and it’s been 53 days since March 12. Fifty-three days from now is June 26. You see the math flaw in my “What if this is halfway” calculation? The future keeps getting farther away. So I try to concentrate elsewhere. I have distractions. Sue me, I love Kelly Clarkson. And even though it’s warmer now, I need a new coat by the fall, I should figure that out. Placebo rules. There are limits on the usefulness of envisioning a long-term future. You make it one day, then you make it another, and make it another, and eventually you wake up and see grass.
It’d be easy to leave it there, wouldn’t it?
As others remind me, one can’t just say “We’ll all get through this!” Not everyone’s getting through this. The virus’s direct effects aside, suicide happens more in times like these. Intimate partner violence too. And, of course, substance abuse. I’m mostly staying positive, but there was a day in March when save a few eggs I ate nothing but whiskey, and not in the fun way.
Suicide happens more in times like these. Intimate partner violence too. And, of course, substance abuse.
I’ve seen a lot of shaming-and-screaming “WHY WON’T PEOPLE STAY HOME?!” rhetoric on my social media. I support the lockdown, but there’s nothing uncomplicated about the choices we’re making. In the meantime, I hope you are as well as can be. I hope that you’re healthy and safe. I hope that you ask for help if you need it and I hope you get it. I hope that you’re going to make it.
Casey Plett is the author of the novel Little Fish and the short story collection A Safe Girl to Love. She is also co-editor of Meanwhile, Elsewhere: Science Fiction and Fantasy From Transgender Writers. She has written for The New York Times, Maclean’s, and The Walrus, among other publications.
Transmission is a new series of original creative works, commissioned by CBC Books, that reflects on time, place, identity, community and purpose in an era of COVID-19.
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