On Friday, I backtracked twenty miles or so to Quartzite, Arizona.

A shrub with a jack russell terrier underneath it
Zelda likes it better here, because she has a very strong preference for peeing on things that resemble grass. She spent a lot of time circling the van at our last site, wondering why I wouldn’t find “outside” for her.

I was mostly doing it to make my brother happy. He was sending me map views of my location from the data in my photographs, linking me to local hospital information, and muttering (as much as one can mutter in a text) about police and wellness checks in the desert. Moving to Quartzite meant meeting up with several members of a Facebook group for solo travelers, ie people to call the ambulance if necessary.

It has not been necessary. Yay!

It feels weird, though. We are practicing excellent social distancing, so apart from one brief hello from about twenty-five feet away, I haven’t actually met my fellow solo travelers. I’d love to ask them questions, hear about their travels, find out more about them — but instead I wave from the van window if I see them moving around outside. So it goes. And I’m good at isolation — I’m an introvert. This whole self-quarantine business must feel like a nightmare for extroverts.

It also feels weird to just be sitting here. I keep trying to remind myself that this is real life. I should be writing a book. I should be… I don’t know, lots of things. Instead, I’m obsessively checking the news and Facebook as if something’s going to be different between this time and the last time I checked. I remind myself to breathe and meditate and listen to music and before I can do anything of the sort, I just have to take one last look at the Washington Post. And then an hour has gone by and I remind myself that I could be meditating, which lasts five minutes before I think maybe a quick glance at Facebook will do something other than annoy me. I’m almost always wrong about that.

A while back I was working on a post-apocalyptic story called “Welcome to tH3-3ND,” where a virus (H3-3ND) decimated the world. I gave up on it, because I felt like I needed to know more about infrastructure to do it justice, but the thing I got very, very wrong (the thing that all apocalyptic stories, IME, except for one, get very wrong) is the tedium of the minute-by-minute indecision. Real life is suspended, but what gets put in its place? I’ve never understood stories with people who leave their shelters in the zombie apocalypse, but now I do.

Anyway, the one exception is an alien invasion story by Andrea Host, called And All the Stars, which has an extended slow part in the middle. It actually serves a really important plot purpose — a vitally important plot purpose — but I nearly stopped reading because the characters are just sitting around doing nothing. They’re in hiding, the world is completely different, and they’re bored. Actually, now that I’m remembering this book, I might go reread it, because one of the great things about it is that most people are good, and most people get right on with working together to do the best they can with the world as it is. I suspect that’s because it’s Australian — most American apocalyptic books have people turning evil really quickly. Alas. We’ll hope that’s not reality!

And I think I’ll go read a book. It’s a better idea than reading the news, that’s for sure!