How to Pass Time

Roblin Meeks
6 min readAug 6, 2020

This pandemic has been insatiable. It gnawed at the spring, slowly at first, then picking up speed until it consumed the last portions of the school year, including the usual habits and rituals of transition and completion. It ate my daughter Q’s birthday back in late April, which had to be celebrated via a surprise Zoom party with her friends who each set their virtual backgrounds to a favorite pic of her and them together. It ate the meat of my son M’s 17th birthday and left the bones of adulthood wet in his lap. It ate Mother’s and Father’s Day. It ate my wife’s birthday and then somehow still had room for mine. It unhinged its jaw and swallowed the summer whole — no camps, no travel, no lazy city days with friends — and now it’s licking its lips at the fall.

We have been fortunate all in all. Suddenly online high school wasn’t ideal, but M&Q’s teachers handled the pivot reasonably well until everyone limped over the finish line. My wife and I still have jobs, at least for the moment, work that we can negotiate remotely even as demands on us have intensified. New York was hit extremely hard early on, and we stayed inside as much as possible, covered our faces, did our best to help Flatten the Curve. We haven’t gotten sick. The city is beginning to come out of its crouch, and we feel more comfortable being out in the masks that Q made for us. But when we’re out, we still can’t manage to see the end of this terrible time.

We’ve had so much time to pass despite everything, despite the nothing, and days are all middle now. Over the 5 months of quarantine, so many load-bearing distinctions have eroded — work/life, school/home, weekday/weekend, spring/summer — that any moment could be carved from any part of any day. Even as we don’t feel like we’re moving, milestones keep coming to us. We all got officially older. M has continued with the college process, forced to think about himself in the near and far future when even next week seems nebulous. He was supposed to be on stage performing with his band throughout this summer, letting out his whole self so that audiences can become their bodies. I still want him to have that experience, as often as he can, to see for himself the kind of joy he can give others that few people can, but it’s hard to see when such performances could happen again. Q was supposed to be among her people at arts camp in the woods away from the…

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Roblin Meeks

Essayist, lapsed professional philosopher, associate dean of ice cream. Author of creative nonfiction about work, love, self and other stuff. Welcome, pals.