It’s true that I was one of the “selfish Seattle people” who went outside to enjoy that glorious spring Saturday back in March.

I know it’s no excuse, but I was worried and afraid. These feelings drove me out the door, out onto the streets, which seemed less dangerous than the anxiety within the walls of my home.

I dressed quickly, never taking my eyes off the light of day, moving in a different direction than the one I was supposed to follow.

I solemnly pledged to keep my social distance.

Seattle in its earliest days of spring is like a gift extended for surviving winter. There is just something about the warming days that makes life feel good.

No matter how bad the news is.

No matter if my sister, a nurse in New York City, tested positive and needed the help of an inhaler, antibiotics and steroids to see her way through.

She is feeling better now. But we worried. Oh, how we worried.

For one thing, she had rheumatic fever as a child. For another, she’s a smoker. The wine is poured, the cigarette is lit. The conversation intensifies, the next cig is lit. And so on and so on. For as far back as I can remember.

Before she got sick, we poo-pooed the hysteria. We called the word corona “a new chew toy for the media.” Laughing, we said how we, together, were the perfect storm of epicenters: “We are Italian. You live in New York. I live in Seattle. We’ll be shunned.” We compared the nation’s numbers as if they proved something: 68,000 dead of opioid overdoses in 2018; some 30,000 dead annually of other flu viruses; 15,000 dead by gunshot in 2019; 700,000 people with AIDS who have died since the beginning of the epidemic. 

And when my friend Ken wrote, “We can’t stop living because we are afraid of dying,” I grabbed onto his words like a prize. As if there had to be a prize.

I think the funniest thing I said to my sister, and by that I mean when were still provoking the kind of laughter that made us feel righteous, is what I said after she cried, “You would think I’d be more afraid of the virus. But I’m more afraid of the men running this country!” And I said, “You would think there is a correlation between sheltering in place and sex, but there is not.”

We said these things. We meant these things. We didn’t know what was what, and we felt it was our duty to question everything. It is our duty to question everything. I’ve never been all that good at believing the 24-hour news cycle.

But after contracting the virus, my sister had serious trouble breathing. And like the streets around us, our doubts grew increasingly silent and empty.

So when the sun finally came out (the sun!), a lump formed in my throat. I had to get out. As soon as I was in open air, my body seemed to relax one nerve at a time.

I crossed through Seattle Center and hiked up to Queen Anne until I found what I was looking for: earth — green, irresistible earth. So many growing things. The scent filled every part of me. “You can’t know how good it feels to get out of my tiny Belltown condo!” I said to the first man I saw standing in his yard.

“Yes I can,” he said in a tone that convinced me this was a subject he knew well. “I used to live in a condo. I was board president, but there are always those who are trying to oust the board president. Most people were perfectly nice. Even the ousters were perfectly nice — to my face.”

I felt like I was listening to a story shared in the most necessary sort of way, for connectedness’s benefit. All for me! I hung on every precious word.

I said I agreed with him, which was easy. Because I did. Our last board president moved clear up to Edmonds, he was so mad for being voted out.

We purposely did not talk about the virus. This I could sense in the way we talked about anything else. But avoiding a subject and ignoring it are two different things, as we all know.

For another minute, I just stood there thinking that years down the road we will look back at these months as another time in history when the delicate balance between questioning and resigning, patience and panic, freedom and restriction, life and mortality had been upended. When everything got too quiet too fast, and it was too late to hide, and the world completely changed.

And with that, I said goodbye.

I thought of popping by Trader Joe’s just to see and hear other people, but I was fine with my one blessed interaction. I felt better. More grounded.

Blessed, better, grounded.

This is what makes for happiness now.