Living through this is so different than looking back on it. Even looking back on the earlier days of the pandemic, when they were all so scared at the time, changes things. Now that fear seems quaint: we thought we were in for a few weeks, maybe a few months, of hardship. Then a return to normal.
As winter looms, normal seems an illusion.
Allison, having quit her job at the office supply store, spends most of her time now working on her old house. She has also taken up art – not the kind her friend Kassandra does, with training and tools and, above all, discipline. But a very personal sort of image-making, with whatever she finds around the old house. Collages of old newspaper headlines, scraps from the birthday cards she saved, even passages from her master’s thesis. Painted over with washes of watercolors.
She finds a kind of contentment, if not joy, in this life.
Kassandra still gets a shift or two a week at the coffee shop. She allows herself more time with her art, too, and devotes herself to supporting Sasha through what is turning into a difficult pregnancy. High blood pressure forces Sasha into mostly bedrest, which does not sit well with her restless spirit. David cares for her between shifts with the crew, buying groceries and delivering food to whomever needs it. Kassandra offers a different kind of company, though: light-hearted, telling laughable stories about their girlhoods, sharing memories. The two women treasure this time together, although they rarely mention it to anyone else. It feels fragile, and almost a betrayal of all those who suffer.
Douglas and Louise watch old movies, listen to one another’s favorite music, learn one another’s histories. Douglas is over the moon at the transformation in his son David. One day, he wonders aloud with Louise if this would have happened without the pandemic: a kind of silver lining. Too late, he catches himself. The virus killed her sister, Penelope. He rushes to apologize.
“No, it’s okay,” Louise says. “Penelope would love the irony of it all. She’d pour a big glass of wine and laugh louder than anyone at the whole ridiculous situation.”
The looming winter will test all of them.
Each, within the darkness, finds that glimmer of light.