The Minuet

Alone Together

The streets are blank of traffic on this epidemic Sunday, but there are people–not many–walking or even jogging on the sidewalks. There are groceries to go to, and anyway keeping sedentary for who knows how many weeks is certainly no way to boost your immune system. But LA’s sidewalks have ever been an afterthought, except along certain popular shopping streets, and are not wide. Certainly not wide enough to keep one’s six-foot distance. And so we dance the Epidemic Minuet: smile at each other, then veer away, onto the lawn or into the street if need be. We have made an art of uncertainty here, and no doubt folks have done likewise everywhere the rules have been imposed.

Sometimes neighbors meet in a sort of fairy circle, standing like mushrooms around the circumference of a forbidden zone whose dimensions change with unconsidered movements as our fellows join or leave. We check up on each other, we joke, we pass on news; we worry together, and we assure ourselves together. And wait for the time–who knows when it will come?–when we can be society again.

Regular text messages chime from phone to phone, offering to shop for the old or housebound, announcing a store that hosts no line of trembling hoarders. Emails pass back and forth; posts appear on social media and on blogs. The minuet transcends the street, the corporeal, and we step closer to each other in our words, when we can’t do it in the flesh.

So the circles are completed: thanks to speech and sentences, written on the wind from six feet off, posted on doors, sent through the wires and radio waves, we can dance the minuet, stepping apart when the music says to, stepping together, if only in words, when the time is right to join our souls.

Rick Risemberg