Life isn’t a story.
This is, for the most part, a good thing. Stories need conflict. Stories need drama. Stories need, more often than not, for the worst possible thing to happen at the worst possible time.
No one wants to live in a well-written story.
The pandemic isn’t a story. But if it were, I think we’d be at the part where it looks like everything is about to wrap up and wind down at last — but it isn’t, quite.
Vaccines are here and widely available, even if not as many people as hoped for are taking them. Covid case numbers are down, at least in our country and at least in certain communities within our country. Some of the time, for some of the people, things are beginning to feel almost … normal.
Which is why this would be the part of the story where readers begin flipping through the pages (physical books) or checking out the status bar (ebooks) to see if we’re really as close to the ending as we think.
It would be the part of the story where we realize that there are so many more pages left to go than we expected — too many for the story to really be winding down, too many for the resolution to be as simple as it seemed.
It would be the part where at least one more unexpected-yet-somehow-inevitable thing needed to happen. One more threat, one more unexpected twist, one more call for our weary characters to find their strength and rise above their weaknesses, to endure the unendurable and overcome one last overwhelming obstacle.
It would be where we realize the pandemic and its consequences aren’t over yet, that we were in too much of a hurry to think they were, that we need to keep reading for a while yet before we reach the satisfying conclusion and cathartic sigh of relief we’re longing for.
I’m glad the pandemic isn’t a story.
I’m glad those of us who hear those pages flipping have as much chance as being wrong as of being right. Maybe the pandemic still is building up to a dramatically satisfying ending. There are certainly enough unresolved plot threads left for one. But maybe, if we’re lucky, it’s instead just staggering to an undramatic, unsatisfying, mostly meaningless, utterly weary end.
Stories need meaning. Life, thankfully, does not.
But life also doesn’t let us skip ahead, doesn’t let us read the ending ahead of time for reassurance before returning to our carefully bookmarked place.
I hope the pandemic isn’t a story.
But if it is a story, I hope it’s a standalone story.
Because as readers know, if the pandemic isn’t a standalone story, then the end of book one is just a lull. A chance for readers to catch their breath — right before all those unresolved plot threads come crashing down, with all the force of a world that extends far beyond our own borders and a tale that was always, always more complicated than it seemed.