There’s a strange dynamic to this nightly journal, this sensation of writing against time. Or more precisely: writing for myself in the future. Each night I try to record my thoughts and, where sanity permits, some of the day’s events and headlines. This makes for remarkably dull reading in the current moment. But I’d like to have a record of these days to look back upon in five or ten years. I regret not having something like this during my optimistic years circa 2010.

I’ve been re-reading Stephen King’s The Stand to understand how a sprawling apocalyptic story works, and I’d forgotten that it’s so compulsively readable, the way he inhabits his characters’ thoughts and steers them into the secret world of familial wounds and childhood taunts. Some sections didn’t age well, and sometimes the writing gets clunky, but it’s forgivable because you get the sense King doesn’t give a shit, either. He’s too wrapped up in carrying you across his plague-stricken America to bother with lyrical gloss. But there are some terrific lines: “They were American people and there was a kind of dirty, compelling romance about them whenever they were in groups.” Or when a man walking down a quiet street wonders if “the normal world had skewed into a place where bodies were sacrificed behind closed doors and stupendous black machines roared on and on in locked basements.”

But what strikes me the most about The Stand is the diary a pregnant character keeps as she crosses the country. Each entry ends with “things to remember,” a list of things she wants to tell her child about life before a plague wiped out civilization. The catchphrases and television commercials. The amusement parks, laugh tracks, and frozen cheesecakes. This captures how I’d like some entries in my journal to work: something written for the future rather than the moment. (Hopefully it will be far less dramatic than the diary in The Stand, but god only knows what the rest of 2020 has up its sleeve.)

So, some things to remember: We’re buying fewer breath mints because we’re less social these days. The stock market continues to climb despite all evidence that we’re heading off a cliff: infections are soaring, yet unemployment assistance and suspended evictions will expire in two weeks. The president’s only solution is to distract us with racist remarks. Every few days I double-check to make sure I didn’t imagine that Taiwan has only had seven deaths from coronavirus. That’s something to remember, too: it didn’t have to be this way.

E.R.P. – Remembrance

Afterimage | Forgotten Future, 2018 | More