Nothing Really Changed, Except Everything…

By Sorina Szakacs

I open my eyes and look at my phone. It’s 5:30 a.m., April 7th, day 19 of Los Angeles’ “Safe at home order”. My days are usually the same, even on weekends. I wake up before the sunrise, make a cup of coffee, and go on the balcony. I sit there until the sun sets, alternating coffee with wine, reading, and writing.

I hear a door slam. I get up and look toward the street like those old bored at home ladies, ready to see some juicy stuff worth gossiping about. I see the mail girl heading toward my building, bag across the body, filled with envelopes, her cellphone sticking out of her right pocket, and a few packages in her hands.

I leave my cigarette in the ashtray and head to the door; I pick up a pair of black gloves and a mask and put them on. I pull the gloves to cover my bracelets and grab the mailbox key. I always wear 7 bracelets, 3 on my right wrist, and 4 on my left.

Outside of my apartment, on the welcome mat, a brown pair of Minnetonka slippers waits for me. It’s been two weeks since I stopped walking around the house with the same shoes I use outside.

I take the stairs so I don’t have to touch any parts of the elevator. I open the mailbox and I see the yellow envelope from Los Feliz Ledger. Inside is the April print edition and my first U.S. co-byline in a local newspaper, front page, above the fold.

My biggest dream was to write for a newspaper in the US. and Coronavirus helped me turn it into reality.

On a Monday afternoon in mid-March, while working from home as a dispatcher, waiting for calls that were no longer coming in, I decided to give my dream a try. I left Allison Cohen, the Los Feliz Ledger Publisher, a voicemail asking for an internship.

When Alison Cohen called asking if I am willing to go out and check in with bars, restaurants, and grocery stores on how they are coping with the new rules of “safer at home” order, I did not hesitate. I was supposed to get my blood work done the same morning, after postponing it for months, but the newspaper was more important than my cholesterol levels.

That day I became a Ledger contributing writer, thanks to the novel coronavirus.

Nothing much changed, except maybe the shoes I leave outside of my apartment, the fact that I now wipe keys, doorknobs, cigarette packs, every amazon package, Instacart delivery, and Hello Fresh box. I never cleaned wine bottles with anything before opening them. Now I do. With Clorox wipes.

My days are not that different since, as one of my friends put it, I’ve been in quarantine and self-isolation for a year now, working from home. The difference is that now my next-door neighbor talks to me from behind the balcony divider.  Or that I finally started working out after more than a year of jogging only with my fingers on a keyboard or making my brain cells run around, forming thoughts and ideas.

Nothing much changed except maybe the fact that I wear a mask and gloves when I go to CVS for another bottle of wine.

Nothing has changed, except nothing is the same anymore.

Still, nothing has changed. We still have Netflix and chill and the Internet. We spend most of the time glued to our phones, refreshing COVID-19 maps to see how close the virus is to our homes. It‘s like we are waiting for it to show up, make itself conformable on countertops or kitchen table, and then slowly being kicked down by the cat.

I spend most of my evenings on the balcony, drinking wine, reading, and smoking. I listen to the hummingbirds arguing about feeding hierarchy, and I enjoy the silence of a city that has never been this silent. I hope we’ll learn to live slower and with more meaning from now on.

Nothing really changed except that the elevator in my building never smelled of bleach as it does nowadays.

Nothing really changed except the fact that at 5 p.m., nobody honks or is stuck in traffic on my small street.

Nothing really changed except that I have been trying for the past couple of days to place a grocery order on Instacart with no success, and now I’m eating a CVS miso soup.

Nothing really changed; except that every evening I force myself to drink half a shot of my dad’s palinca (some kind of moonshine made of plums) that my grandma believes has the power to kill germs and beat infections…

Nothing has changed except I have a new daily activity: I go on the rooftop to watch the sky change colors at sunset and look at the empty Runyon trails.

Every evening I sit on the balcony and read. I don’t need a watch or my phone to tell me what time it is. I know it’s 8 p.m. because everyone on my street starts clapping and cheering. It’s that 8 p.m. “alarm” that takes me back down to Earth. It is the wakeup call I get every evening after finishing another piano lesson or trying to pronounce words in foreign languages like Pashto and Dari, reading Alice in Wonderland for the book club, or finishing a story for the Los Feliz Ledger.

Nothing has changed, except that this year, my building manager, The Mother of Dragons, turned 50 on April 4th and we moved the party on the rooftop. As I told her when she called crying of happiness an hour later, “thank corona for this!” If it hadn’t been for the virus, there would not have been rooftop Happy Birthday singing.

If it had not been for COCVI-19 I wouldn’t have been a Ledger contributing writer now.

Nothing really changed, except everything changed!

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