Countdown, March 24, 2020

Zinc supplement pills are hard to find in the U.S. now, so I buy six bottles at the GMC on Calle Londres to take with me back to Virginia. Yesterday I found abundant toilet paper at the OXXO near my apartment and bought a lot of that as well.

Xoloitzquintli. What a gorgeous dog, or so I think, though some of my friends disagree, finding the hairless body disturbing. Very close now to the Plaza Rio de Janeiro, I relax where middle-class people walk their purebred dogs, glad to leave the streets of the commercial area Zona Rosa, still crowded even as the pandemic presses into Mexico City. Usually the dogs in the Plaza are off-lead, something I do not like in cities, though I have to admit all the dogs I have seen in the park are well-behaved.

The fountain is on, and the huge green replica of Michelangelo’s David looks out confidently, cooled and darkened by splashes of water, his small penis more than compensated by his enormous round trasero, itself one of the landmarks of Colonia Roma, the same strong butt that I once caught my elderly neighbor Eloina gazing at in what looked like rapture, as she sat on a bench eating a quesadilla, Carlos and I spotting her as we walked by, hoping that she did not hear or, if she heard it, did not understand our laughter. Several of my gay male friends remember, as small boys, staring at this ball of metal muscle, not able to comprehend nor to deny the confusing sensations it provoked.

Roma, a bit west of the Centro, is, I often think, the most lovable urban place I know, with its quiet tree-lined streets, its hundred-year-old houses, some of them elegant, some of them fantasy castles unaware of their own absurdity, its wealthy past, long faded, its hipster present. Queer residents are often visible on the streets, though conspicuously queer businesses—gay bars, underwear shops, saunas, the Voces en Tinta bookstore—are elsewhere, many of them a short distance away in Zona Rosa. People on the streets of Roma today, mindful of the coronavirus, are subdued, tentative, socially distanced. Orizaba, the main street that runs through the Plaza, often bustling, is quiet now, not only because there are fewer people, but because those people talk and laugh less than usual. No one seems to be hanging out to enjoy the sidewalks without purpose or destination.

My visit to Mexico City, three weeks this time, ends in a couple of days. Leaving is different now from any time before. Knowing that I may not be able to return in this pandemic, I feel a twinge of preciousness to everything I see around me. Jehovanny, my boyfriend, is anxious as I clean out the refrigerator and start to pack. I cherish him, but I believe he is more dependent on my presence than I am on his, and I am leaving him in a place that will soon fill to the brim with risk and suffering. He knows, as I do, that COVID will be bad in densely populated, gregarious Mexico City, with its many poor residents who must work around other people every day to survive. Going tonight, one last time, to Roma Antigua, the exquisite and inexpensive Italian restaurant that we love, we are melancholy. “Fred,” he says suddenly, “te quiero, te necesito.” Eating our artesanal pizza and lasagna, mostly silent, we can and cannot imagine the coming separation.

During the ensuing months, I will learn more than I ever knew about living alone, and about the fascinating woods where I live here in Virginia. Cities will come to seem frightening in new ways. Bars, restaurants, churches, gyms, and other gathering places will become perilous and, to some, alluring. Airplanes, the monstrous machines that stitch the fragments of my life together, will seem deadly.

Fred Everett Maus is a writer and musician living in Earlysville, Virginia. He has published poetry and other creative writing in The Citron Review, Hineni Magazine, Open Space, Jacket2, Palette Poetry, Richmond magazine, Roanoke Review, and Vox Populi. He teaches and writes about music, and is co-editor with the late Sheila Whiteley of The Oxford Handbook of Music and Queerness. He is a certified teacher of mindfulness meditation and Deep Listening.

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