In middle school, dystopian literature reigned supreme. It was the age of reading about silk parachutes, arguing about factions, and wondering who my ideal soulmate would be if chosen by a computer algorithm. Specifically, it was the age of Young Adult dystopias; when we read Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451, my classmates and I complained to each other behind the teacher’s back. We didn’t get it.
After all that, who could have imagined that the most eventful part of my young life would be spent sitting at home, alone, for months on end? Certainly, this virus is not as glamorous as fighting off zombies or standing up to a tyrannical government. None of my friends have developed superpowers or fallen into confusing love triangles. Instead, they hide behind masks and computer screens. And somehow, this is still one of the greatest gifts we have to offer our neighbors and families.
For many I talk to, the greatest sacrifice has been this pervading sense of loneliness. For several weeks, I thought I was immune. When my university canceled classes, I was unfazed. When my roommates moved back home, I barely blinked. And when friends invited me out, my shyness enjoyed having an excuse for staying barricaded indoors.
That is, until the Friday night when, sometime during a Community episode or slam poem video, the Wi-Fi suddenly went out. I fumbled around with my laptop and eventually stumbled into the living room. My router blinked at me angrily. I scowled back. Checking the TV for solace, I found only static there. I retired to bed, angry, falling asleep to the sound of my own heartbeat and some faint sirens in the distance.
Waking up the next morning, hoping everything had magically fixed itself; I opened my eyes to the stark reality of an empty apartment and no reliable connection to the outside world. I suited up, in my jacket and combat boots, and trekked to the library for a day of studying for finals and checking out books. How would I survive these next few days without any song at my fingertips while I cooked, Zoom to communicate with classmates and coworkers, and Troy and Abed’s jokes to fall asleep to at night?
Suddenly choosing to stay 7,000 miles away from home seemed like an awful decision. I wanted to take back every movie night and party invitation I had ever rejected.
Luckily, the Internet was soon fixed, and many things went back to normal. I was able to take my finals and call my family for lengthy chats. I messaged my friends on Facebook and laughed at funny video compilations. And I wondered about my need for noise and this strange fear of hearing my own breathing. I thought about every book I had ever come across, and how school sucked away my time for leisure reading. I remembered Mildred from Fahrenheit 451, and her family. In these days of empty shelves and doctors’ viral pleas, there are many things I now understand that I wish I didn’t.