Bearded, bespectacled, and long haired George leaned back into his chair and said, “This Covid-19 virus is the worst kind of a cock blocker.”
My eyes grew wide. For George had uttered the word “cock blocker” in a hospital workspace containing more than eighteen-hundred employees, seventy-three percent of which are women.
I threw my head back: “Ha. Ha.”
The blue hospital mask redirected my breaths toward my eyes and forehead. I inhaled. My breath smelled of partially digested mix strawberries, orange juice, and oatmeal. Wow, I thought. Is this really how my breath smells when others are within distance? Large glasses covered my eyes and made up for my nearsightedness. The redirected breaths fogged up my lenses, which prompted me to remove my glasses from the top of my nose.
George was smiling now, a rakish kind of shit eating grin. While looking at him, I was reminded of a set of nefarious characters in a novel I’d read in the not-to-distant past. “I’m telling you that what I’m saying it’s true,” he said. “We can’t go to a bar, restaurants are open at limited capacity, and the clubs are closed. There’s nothing dude. How’s a guy supposed to get his game on with these women brother? You know what I’m saying?” He ran his fingers through his mane and laughed.
He kept on going on about conquering women for another few minutes. When finished, he passed me the baton, with the expectation that I would offer my agreement. A second or two went by without me saying a word, as I was at a loss for how to respond to such a blunt assertion of male longing and libido in the workplace. It had been some years since I’d spoken to another male about women in such a ribald way. My face was suddenly flush, and I was tempted to whip my head around to see if there were any female employees walking past George’s doorway. And then George, perhaps assuming that he’d knowingly stepped over the line in the presence of the wrong bro, appeared to be getting nervous.
George was a swell guy in general, a real ladies man who was able to make them feel comfortable in his presence. He was also a single father, a brilliant artist, well-liked amongst all of his peers, and a fourteen year veteran — twice as long as me — of the research hospital. So of course I wasn’t going to lecture him on workplace decorum.
“I do hear what you’re saying George,” I said. “I’m really anxious for Covid-19 to be over and done with it too.”
After absorbing my response, George, once again feeling safe, let his shoulders go. He leaned forward and rested his forearms on his desk — George was a recently promoted to supervisor, and this promotion afforded him a lacquered wood desk. “So, it’s going to be Friday night a few hours,” he said. “What are your plans? God knows I’m not going to be doing anything exciting.”
“I don’t know. Probably just go home and watch some Netflix. Season four of The Crown premiered this past Sunday. And then I’ll pick up a book afterwards and read until I go to sleep.”
George sighed. “That sounds cool dude. Probably Netflix and reading a book is about exciting as it gets now, right? So, The Crown, huh? I think I’ve heard a few people talk about that show. What’s it about?”
After I explained the plot of The Crown to him, George said, “All right dude. Maybe I’ll check it out sometime.”
“Not tonight though? I said.
George squinted. “Nope. I’m going to do something else. Maybe invite some guys over to my crib tonight. “Oh!” George’s eyes lit up. “You’re invited to come if you want. We can have some beers and get to know each other some more. I’ve always been curious about you dude. What do you think?”
Suddenly made uncomfortable by George’s offer, I shifted in my in my seat, silently fretting over how to deny his invitation in the least offensive way possible. I sucked in some air and said, “I’ve got someone at home who would be worried about me. Maybe another time, when all of this Covid-19 craziness is over with?”
“It’s all good man. You enjoy yourself tonight as much as you can.”
“I will do that.”
Unbeknownst to George and others like him, Netflix and reading were an integral part of my Friday routine before the advent of Covid-19 in March, 2020. So, I wasn’t really losing my Friday evenings to Covid-19.
Before Covid-19 arrived, I’d have dinner and a movie with friends every Saturday afternoon. These friends are female, one I’ve known for more than twelve years, the other two I’ve known for almost six. I’d hang out with my friend of twelve years on a Saturday, and then I’d replace my friend of twelve years with my other two friends the following Saturday. My friends knew of each other, however they’d never met . There was not an expectation of any romantic advancement during these platonic dates, as we — all of us are in our forties and moved beyond actively scouring the clubs and bars for prospective mates — just enjoyed each other’s company.
When it became clear that Covid-19 was sweeping through Colorado, contributing to the shuttering of movies theatres and restaurants, my in-person rendezvous with close my friends had to cease. Still, Covid-19 could not put an end to our friendships, as Zoom became the medium through which we watch movies on Saturday afternoons. I was able to see their faces, speak to them, laugh with them, and express my gratitude for their continued companionship. Our friendships have become stronger and will become more enduring as the days, weeks, months, and years pass by.
Before Covid-19 swept through Colorado, I was a regular participator at the local gym. My activities included running on the treadmill, heavy weightlifting, and turbo kick boxing on Sundays. After completing a workout, the endorphins would flood through my system, providing me with a euphoric feeling. After Covid-19 spread through Colorado in the spring, creating a panic, the gym shuttered its’ doors for an undisclosed amount of time.
There’s a small park locate a few blocks away from my house. One afternoon, after arriving home from a work shift, I decided to drive around the park once to gauge the mileage. The total distance came out to be a little more than one mile. So, if I run around the park three time times, then I’ll accumulate three miles each time I run, I thought as I drove to my house. And as an addition, my father, God rest his soul, had purchased some barbells for me eight years ago when I was too sick to go to the gym.
Several months after the gym’s closure, Covid-19 has become an even more pervasive and destructive force in my state. But Covid-19 has not prevented me from experiencing the endorphin high that comes from continuous physical exertion. I run three times around the park about two times a week. After I’ve completed a run, I head down to my basement for a one hour-long weightlifting session, and then the endorphins surge through my body after my workout has been completed. I do still miss the gym though.
Before the advent of Covid-19 earlier this year, I was working full-time as a lead client services representative at my local hospital. I’m still employed by the hospital, earning enough of a salary to buy groceries before the sun rises on Sunday mornings, pay the mortgage on my house, and put some money away for a rainy day. I realize that millions of Americans, many of whom have lost their livelihood because of Covid-19, would most likely trade their situations for mine if given the opportunity. So right now I am grateful that I’m able to live basically the same existence in the midst of this terrible pandemic, for I know that it could be a lot worse.
But once the pandemic is put into the rear view mirror, I’m going to make it a point to live a more consequential life, one ambitious and grand enough to accommodate me and a lovely significant other.