This article originally appeared on VICE US.
After two months of home isolation, a lot of us are starting to feel torn between wanting to get back to the lives we left behind and the knowledge of how that’s impossible, at least not until widespread testing, contact tracing, and a COVID-19 vaccine are made widely available.
This inability to get back to life as we know it has made a lot of us bitterly mournful for the mundane textures of our pre-quarantine lives: the everyday places we’d go to; the strangers we’d pass without a second thought; the ease and spontaneity with which we’d wander the world aimlessly when we had the time to do so. Those details that made up our daily lives will remain out of reach, no matter how badly we want them to return.
It’s sad to think about how our favorite quotidian activities won’t be coming back for a long time, if ever, but in the absence of getting to take part in them we might as well come together, vent, and reminisce. VICE spoke with 10 people about the mundane things they still won’t be able to do once their daily lives resume, and that they are going to miss the most.
These interviews have been edited for length and clarity. Some names have been omitted or changed for reasons of privacy. All photos are courtesy of their subjects.
I’ll miss getting the weather report from Vince and Marianne, an older couple who used to sit on their stoop all day. I’d walk by and chat and find out what the weather was going to be for the next several days and whether or not they planned on grilling.
I wonder about hugs. I’m a hugger, and body contact means a lot to me. I worry about when or even if hugs will be “allowed” again in public. Will they be frowned upon? My body shudders in anticipation.
I miss those little moments of freedom with other people in the world. Getting high and people-watching on the JMZ, being able to see their full faces. Those moments of being kind with strangers and connecting with them in unfearful ways.
Like, right before the pandemic, I remember crossing the street and looking back to check out a muscley tatted bad boy ConEd dude. When I turned back around, I locked eyes with an old man in his yard smiling at me. Caught me! When I walked by him, he said, “You don’t want to gamble. Just look.” I laughed and said, “Yeah.”
Cute shit like that requires full faces. Nonchalant daily things like that have kind of evaporated, and I don’t know if or when they’ll come back.
I’ll miss wearing a bandana purely for the gay aesthetic of it all and not for safety reasons.
It’s the act of sharing stuff that gets me. Sharing keys for drugs, sharing joints, sharing a sip of water at the rave, sharing bites of food, sharing dishes at a restaurant—just sharing shit as a means of saying, “We are family. I have something for you.”
I’ll miss being able to walk into a coffee shop and just grab a drink without thinking about it. I’ll miss running to my corner market real quick for a lemon or a tomato or something. Now, every part of how I interact with the outside world needs to be scheduled and planned ahead. There’s so little room for spontaneity these days, and I worry if that will ever come back.
This is a silly frustration, but I’ll miss ducking into new places at random—like driving to a new part of the state and getting breakfast there randomly, taking the train to a different part of the city and dropping into the first interesting bar I see, or going to one of the libraries in the city I don't usually go to just to check out what books they have. That sense of possibility feels lost.
I want to go to the farmers market and just loiter my brains out while touching everything. Usually when I go to the farmer’s market, I head out with the intention to just see what there is and build a meal from that, or just take in all the produce and think about all the cool things I could cook from it. I haven't been to a farmers market since the pandemic started, though I know a lot of them are still open. For me, so much of the pleasure of them is just wandering around, and that doesn't feel safe these days.
I used to do a similar thing at the grocery store—see what looks good, spend time exploring the aisles—but now I kind of get in and get out as quickly as I can. I can't wear my glasses with my face mask, so food shopping is now a game of "I touched this, guess I'm buying it!" only to come home and realize it's the wrong thing because I couldn't read the label.
So much of our food system is fraught these days—or, even more fraught than it already was—so I spend a lot of time thinking about where I get my food and how it helps or hurts people. On the plus side, since I work from home now, I've been doing a CSA, and that's been a really cool way to support local farmers and still get some of the stuff I'd have seen at the farmer's market, even though rushing through a pick-up line lacks the pleasure of browsing and choosing things for myself.
I miss the public pool so much already I could literally cry just thinking about it. It’s a very small, dumb thing to be sad about, I know, but it’s very tied up with, like, the sense of time passing with my kid. It’s just a special place where we go together, and the thought of missing out on a whole summer of her childhood really bums me out.
I also just love that the pool is one of those big, classic, crowded public places, a space where people sort of cheerfully cram in together. I don’t think people are going to be cheerfully cramming in together for a long time. I also wonder about things like deep funding cuts to local budgets as a result of all this.
I have a lot of stomach issues! Which sometimes requires emergency bathroom visits. Our country is horrible about making public restrooms available, so running into a bar or cafe is usually my only option if I’m out of the house for a long time.
I don’t know if it won’t be possible at all in the coming months, but I imagine when bars and restaurants reopen there will be more attention given to who is coming in, so it’ll be harder to just sort of slip to the back and use the bathroom.
I thought of this recently when my partner and I were planning to take a really long walk, and I suddenly realized, “Wait… If this happens, will there be a bathroom I can use?” Like, knowing where the bathrooms were was always something I had to plan for, and now it’ll just take up even more space in my mind.
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