In Sync with These Past Few Years
Maybe as a joke I did it once these past few years, but not with any urgency. A few for myself, a few for the end of a book, a few just because. I never managed to tire myself out. Many missed opportunities these past few years, but I don’t need to tell you that. As a collective we have gone through horror; some might say, “well not horror, but suspense,” “well not suspense, but terror,” “well not terror, but horror.” We found ourselves truly alone for the first time in 100 years. We had to find ways to celebrate ourselves, not forget the day of the week, remember to go outside even if it is wrapped in plastic.
I let the plastic heat me up on the days I felt cold. I let it wrap around the parts of me that I wanted to hide but instead brought light to. I was scared, slowly heating like a rotisserie chicken and all I could think was, when was the last time I clapped?
We synced up at 8 for those saving lives - outside windows, on rooftops and in the streets people clapped. Hard and loud and for the most important reason I could think of; celebrating the bravery it took to make it through every day. Cities were briefly filled with noise again, excitement and life. Hands bruised, red, battered. I wasn’t there, but I listened. I didn’t clap. I watched the news for this before it faded into nothingness. Almost silence, almost death, for some - complete death.
I’ve never clapped at a funeral. Maybe a child would - misunderstanding the reason we gathered, thinking the body was a newborn making its way into the world in a large bed, their favorite clothes, and soon-to-be family awaiting their awakening. Fear and clapping have never gone hand-in-hand for most. But, we clapped for hope, for recognition, for respect, for community until we didn’t.
Birthdays went by without a celebration or whatever you could call 4 people in a room, standing quite far apart, barely eye contact, barely cake, barely candles, no mouths or noses, or even words. The years didn’t feel like they were going by so why say that I am a year older when I feel so small. KIDS CLAP ALL THE TIME. God has spoken, I have aged. My mom baked a cake. Level 3 of Isolation. She baked this exact cake 5 times, my grandmother’s recipe. Every time, we tried it, critiqued it, noted the flavors and what could be added - taken away. My birthday was try number 2. It was quite sweet, but peppermint tea balanced it out perfectly. We placed the candles, sang in our muffled masks and waited for me to form my wish. Instead, I giggled to myself knowing life wasn’t reading anyone's wishes at the moment, took my mask off and blew. We clapped briefly. I was on a high, at that moment I didn’t realize what the skip in my step was from. I was in search of more of it, but it didn’t come until the next year. We spread out and ate our slices like rats in corners. Hiding our faces with plastic plates. No one told me until the following day what I had done. How could I forget we don’t blow on cakes anymore? A shared experience needs less explanation, but I barely understand what has happened these past few years.
These past few years. An echo of a phrase with a heavy period -
But when was the last time I clapped? Right - at a book, maybe for myself for getting out of bed all those mornings. But I mean really clapped. Just the other week I did, and my arms were sore. Really think to the last time you exerted yourself in a round of applause, had your arms get numb and your mind wander. I forgot what it sounded like, and not just for me but for the 200 other people in the room, like a choir.
A choir of palms smacking. Somewhat in sync. DEFINITELY a good go at it for the break we took from it these past few years.
I clapped and I clapped and I didn’t stop for hours. I balled up the fear and placed it in my palms, felt it vibrate, but this time it resonated differently. I was in a large hall listening to percussion, horns, coughing, clapping. I heard Row 4, Chair 7’s fear, balled up in her palms, vibrating and resonating differently, Row 9, Chair 12 too. The crowd was experiencing what I was, once again, but collectively within minutes and not just these past few years. It ended bruised with calluses, but for all of us.
I almost forgot how to stop. Once I began clapping my body ran with the wave, high and low and in circles. People stared at me and back at their own palms, wanting to begin competition for the largest, reddest, most callused. I didn’t stop, I couldn’t. I feared the moment I did I wouldn’t be able to start again. I would forget how to celebrate. So I carried on - clapping.
The stage cleared.
Rows and Chairs around me cleared - even a group I thought would outlive me, young faces.
My hands didn’t cease as if they had separated from me, remembering the high they could feel. ‘We synced up at 8’ was vibrating in my head; the fear of missing out in the suburbs catching up to me. I clapped for music, for community, for joy, for crowds, for doctors, for nurses, for restaurants reopening, for people finding jobs, for new pills, vaccines, antibody treatments, for almost deaths but not quite deaths, for new love, for new lives, for reuniting, again for music, and for fear. For the first time, like a child would - I clapped for fear in hopes that I could scare it away.