My Neighbor Caught Me!
"She raised her hands towards her face and lovingly blew me several kisses. I gasped and ran out of the kitchen because, yes, that made sense."
I’m an introvert, and, like others assumed, I thought that I wouldn’t struggle during the shelter in place. A couple of weeks into the quarantine, I began to make myself a list of goals to accomplish every weekend. I had some journal blogging to do, some work on my t-shirt line to complete, and a few meals to prep and pack. I’m proud of how serious I’ve taken the quarantine. I’d found ways to cope with being physically distant from others. I often thought to myself, ‘my introverted nature has served me well. I can do this for as long as my community needs to.’
I’d gotten a Zoom meeting invitation to learn about writing a Will and preparing an Advanced Directive. I added the meeting to my calendar and planned to be as high-functioning as possible. Not hard at all, right? Just a little death prep during a pandemic. Everything’s fine.
A quiet morning with soft music, tea in my cup and toast on my plate set me up for success. I was ready to take notes and do things the “right way” this time. The last time I tried to manage writing a Will was during my mother’s hospice care. It did not go well. My father was out of state and would not come to help me take care of her or to prepare me for the end of her life. My mother’s only friend at that time was a neighbor that she hadn’t known long. She depended on me to manage things at the end of her life. I searched tirelessly for affordable and fast legal help. During my search, she became unable to make decisions or sign documents for herself. I put the Will to the side to be with her at the end of her life.
During the zoom call, these memories accosted my attention. My eyes welled up with tears, and I had mixed feelings of sadness and anger. I find myself in a similar situation to my mother. I’m a single 38-year-old that has decided not to marry or have children. My extended family and I just learned of each other, so we aren’t that close yet. I have to depend on me, myself, and I to manage things at the end of my life. My mom found end-of-life support in me, but who will I have?
‘Lonely introverts are a thing. We exist. Shit’s real.’
My thoughts raced and spun on how lonely I felt. Being an introvert isn’t a new realization for me, but admitting that I feel alone, is. Two years of therapy has helped me name these feelings. I accept that my loneliness is complex because I’m an introvert. Lonely introverts are a thing. We exist. Shit’s real. Despite the work I’ve done to reckon with this, I didn’t expect what was to happen next.
I hadn’t heard a thing during the 10 minutes that I was on the zoom call. Questions rolled around my thoughts, “Who did I need a Will for?” “Who will consent to the burden of managing the end of my life when I can’t speak for myself?” The bough broke, and I slammed my laptop shut. “Fuck it. I’ll give my friends the passcode to my debit cards. I’ll tell them to empty my account if anything happens to me.” I put my AirPods on and walked over to my kitchen sink to wash the dishes and to burn off steam.
I let myself cry. Not just any kind of cry, but the loudest most Iyanla-Fix-My-Life-Waiting-to-Exhale-on-Brewster-Street-For-Colored-Girls-ass-cry I’ve ever cried. All the pandemic-stress, the isolation, the grief and anxiety about black folks dying of COVID-19 just came tumbling down. I wailed right there in front of the kitchen sink window for a good long time. There weren’t people outside on the street, so I didn’t think about how loud I was until my AirPods died. The music stopped. I heard myself and another voice coming from outside. “Hello… Hello…”
“Helloooo,” she sang out, trying to get my attention. With a face full of tears, I met her gaze. She was hanging out of her second-story apartment window directly across from where I was at my sink. She waved, and I dropped the white teacup I’d been washing. I backed away from the window until I bumped into my kitchen shelf while waving back at her.
She’s a North African woman with sand-colored skin, high sculptured cheekbones, and almond eyes. A few years back, she invited me to her home and cooked a meal for me while telling me fantastic stories of her life. She’s been my neighbor for ten years. Both of us are surviving the gentrification in our neighborhood. We’re two of the last black women remaining here since the beginning of the tech wave in Oakland. Somehow our Black, Femme, Queer selves have figured it out and managed to make it to the end of the world.
She raised her hands towards her face, and lovingly blew me several kisses. I gasped and ran out of the kitchen because, yes, that made sense. 😑 (Awkwardness may be the reason I’m a lonely introvert).
Triggered and spinning, I spent the next few hours crying in bed. I admitted to myself that sheltering in place is hard, mortality is complicated, and that I missed people. I realized that I need people around. Although I don’t have a partner, I have friendships with folks that I can depend on to support me. Maybe I need to open myself up to talking to them about my wishes for the end of my life. I need to tell my friends what I need.
The way that many humans need each other is beautiful. It’s something to think about while moving toward our unknown future. I have come to accept that my life, love, and family is going to look different from what other people might expect. As I navigate the post-apocalyptic new world to come, I want to prioritize interdependence.