Interregnum

A space between governances. An interim between the death of a sovereign and the ascension of a successor. I’ve never felt it myself, having not lived through the great gaps, these mooted periods of death anxiety, or loss of psychic continuity, as psychoanalysis teaches. The last interregnum of significance from where I come from was seventy years ago, or thereabouts. That’ll be out of living memory soon, and the memories that are still there on the matter aren’t saying much. What had really died then that wasn’t already in a malaise? The UK was in the doldrums, reeling from bankruptcy. So much for winning a war that cost you—what was it? Well, it was a lot, anyway. We had to nationalize railroads, health care, suffer the coldest winters on record, and…yeah, ration eggs. Wait, I forget myself. I wasn’t there. Remember.

I’ve been there over the last year, not rationing or suffering the worst winter on record, but I have been in the doldrums, staying at home, concussed by an event the unfolding of which will have seemed unimaginable a year ago. A year. It’s nearly been a year! Remember when it seemed that staying home and binge-watching Netflix, or rolling out of bed to log on to begin the work day will have seemed novel and welcome. No more. Now that scenario sounds so much like Groundhog Day that surely people will stop watching a great film called Groundhog Day. Now we live in cloisters, with less capacity to track time because it does not pass like it used to. In the years to come, when we reflect upon the fractious politics that divide us, long before a public health crisis kept us in actual silos, will we observe that 2020 was the year we really learned what loneliness is? I’m married and I’ve still noticed this. The reason: I’ve hardly seen anyone live in months, save for my wife and elderly parents, and if you’re like me, getting use to this reality the way my British forebears got used to rationing, you’ll stop noticing the problem. What will creep in, or what has already crept in, perhaps, is the moment when psychological death has occurred and the grim face of a new figure has taken over.

We lay in our caskets for a while, dressed in a non-uniform of casual wear, our hair uncut, our beards and moustaches untrimmed. For women? Maybe the application of make-up has become just a bit more of an effort—an effort to care. A streak of grey smears the flanks of my shoulder-length locks. They hang without symmetry, and if I were seeing you day in and day out, you might not notice and shake your head. Those of you who knew me in the former life, in that pre-Covid world, will see the aging process, assuming we meet again. That quotes another British icon, I think: we’ll meet again. I heard they sang that at Buckingham Palace a year ago, just as they went into lockdown. Vera? She died actually, shortly after, thinking she’d done her bit, so she really was singing farewell. A blast from the glorious past. Spirit of the blitz, and all that. The lockdown may have been a novelty for a minute, back in March of last year—like the first time the crowd filed down into the underground tube (subway) during the air raids of 40’ and 41’. Jesus, how long that must have seemed, that two year stretch that became a seven-year haul. Imagine waiting in burrowed out holes, huddled like rodents, listening to the sonic booms, hoping that your home is not leveled like your neighbor’s house was the night before. No wonder that generation never stops talking about how they couldn’t think about that. Think of all the uncut grey hair that should have grown out, long before the Beatles made growing it out fashionable. Don’t look, I’ll wanna say, when I get seen again. Don’t tell me how I’ve changed.

Don’t tell us how we look, the dead say, because they know it isn’t pretty. I’m told, or was told recently, that some get dressed up anyway to lay in their caskets, with the top open, there for mourners to look down and say something without fear of interruption. I don’t get it, this laying in the casket with the top open thing. It seems like pulling your pants down, closing your eyes and saying, there…see what I got? Death, like sex, was never meant to be looked at. I’m on board with that bourgeois chestnut. I don’t want to look at death. I don’t even want to look at sex anymore. Sex feels too much like life—like a life we changed the rules of. Sorry, porn. You had your day. Once you were a novelty, too: a near impossible to find glimpse of forbidden pleasures, all for the eyes when touching was even more elusive. You’ve done well in your much-maligned career, graduating from one outlet to the next, moving from one technological advancement to another, ever one step ahead of censors. Now you are ubiquitous—the sole survivor of an entertainment industry otherwise capsized by fate and hubris. You won, like a cockroach in nuclear winter has won. But even those addicted to you are bored of your act; your ordinarily tolerable re-runs. I know because some tell me about this, and they’re not lying. They no longer have cause to lie. You don’t know it yet, porn, but even your days may be numbered. Depression. It kills desire, sex, and because we obey depression’s energy shut-down plan we’ll devise a vaccine for you soon. You wait. Or, maybe it won’t be that effective. You don’t require a lot of effort, come to think of it. Maybe we need something for the eyes instead, and something else not discovered for the so-called scopic drive. Sex has taken it on the chin recently, like everything has. Still, it remains a plucky cousin of life, so it keeps going. I don’t know how sex does it. It must be quite resilient, willing to hold on through the rationing; to come up for air after the sirens have stopped, looking for some fun. It’s more fun than death anxiety, that’s for sure. When will the snow stop, the rain start, or the wildfires cease? Is the planet done or something? Is there a new King yet, or will it be a Queen? Save us, somebody or something, or else pull the plugs of everything keeping us not quite alive and let us get some real sleep.

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