One year ago, my boyfriend and I, maskless for one of the last times in public, went to our local grocery store to prepare for a month at home. The aisles swarmed with angry, frustrated, panicked people, all darting between each other to snag canned vegetables, dried pasta, the last bags of store-brand sugar and flour. The bread aisle was utterly bare. The eggs and milk, not much better. Absolutely forget about toilet paper or cleaning products of any kind. We got what we could and left, discussing in the car what else we could do, where we might shop, wondering if a month would actually be enough.

This weekend, the new moon marks a year of pandemic lockdown for us here in the Bay area, and what a dramatic shift it has been from those first weeks, where we were told COVID probably wasn’t airborne and mostly came from direct contact with an infected person. We breathed in shared air on public transit, in stores, in restaurants, but washed our hands eight million times a day and once more for good measure. We were told to not touch our face under any circumstances. Hand sanitizer became a rare and prized commodity, like toilet paper.

I looked up searches online like how to make hand sanitizer and where to buy toilet paper online that isn’t already sold out.

When, not long after lockdown began, we started to hear reports that maybe it was airborne after all and masks might be prudent, everywhere online was already sold out and stores locally were not yet selling them like they do now. We dragged our sewing machines out of storage and found our bag of scrap cloth. We watched a video on how to make good masks. We found we had just enough elastic cord in our projects bin to make two masks each. They were pretty good masks, and I still sometimes use mine, even though now a year later we have much better options. Masks have become a standard part of one’s wardrobe.

It has been a long, exhausting, scary, frustrating year, and for the two of us it wasn’t even that bad. I was already working from home at my job, my boyfriend was able to easily pivot. We have had lots of projects to occupy our time, loving pets to soothe our souls, garden beds to allow us to feel like we’re connected at all to the outside world. So many people were not so lucky, and I am filled with gratitude every day for what we do have and how we were able to weather this.

A year later, I’ve almost completely dissociated from the idea of ever gathering with people in person, indoors, without masks on, again. I know, logically, that it has to happen one day. The vaccines are rolling out, the spread is slowing, the deaths are slowing, but it’s all still too much.

According to the New York Times, on March 13, 2020 there were 556 new cases in the US reported that day. 68 of those came from here in California. That was enough to trigger a full lockdown.

Yesterday, we recorded 64,177 new cases nationwide, with 2,304 of those coming from California. Yesterday, 204 Californians died of COVID. And yet we are told outdoor dining is now fine. We are opening things up again. People are planning weddings and baby showers and going to bachelor/ette parties like somehow we did it, we won! The little line is going down now! Texas’ governor just dropped their mask mandate and already, people who continue to wear masks in that state are being harassed and threatened. Their refusal to put themselves in harm’s way is that much of a threat to the shared delusion that we have in any way beaten COVID-19. We have not. We are a long way off from victory, my friends.

Today is the one-year anniversary of the last time I went out in public without a mask on. I am marking the occasion with a candle for our dead and lost, and a dram of whiskey for our stolen year. May reason and humanity prevail, at least, in 2021.