Rustic Cyberpunk

Coffee & Cabins

The Dark Winter

2 min read

I came back to my apartment mid-October. Everything wasn't quite the same as the Before Times, but a few more tenants had also returned. The night is still quieter than I remembered. Before leaving, I had forgotten a jar of "something" given to me a while ago in the fridge. It's amazing what terrifying delights may grow in a sealed container, unbathed by a suitable climate, for a few months. Not too different from sealed homes or hearts.

A lot of people have forgotten what desperation genuinely feels like. What war feels like and what it means to fight to exist. Like gawkers flocking to a receeding wave before a tsunami, there's a non-trivial percentage of people still insisting on being spectators to their own undoing instead of heading to higher ground. In this case, that's simply covering their nose and mouth with a piece of cloth. This isn't entirely unexpected, but it's a slowly unfolding tragedy that's entirely preventable.

When wrapped in the warmth of complacency, gathering kindling for fire feels foolish and sharpening an axe feels premature. The biting cold of reality feels unwelcome in thoughts and actions.

But the cold is coming.

Here in New York, there's a slight uptick in the number of infections and I expect that, and accompanying deaths, to grow exponentially as seasonal flu is added on. The price of participating in civilization seems like a fool's bargain on some level, but it's still the only mechanism of cooperation in collective memory that we know to have worked. It can still work.

My roommate had come back early November and we're resuming some semblance of normalcy. My immediate neighbor greeted us as usual and we're back to chatting of fun times. I'm looking forward to her Thanksgiving pie this year too.

The New Normal

2 min read

By the end of July, it will be 5 and a half months since "normal" ended for me. The building is still eerily quiet and most of my neighbors who moved out are still away. I don't know how the few remaining folks are making do, but I imagine most are now receiving unemployment benefits.

I'm looking forward to making my mortgage payments in full again without having to dip into my savings. The savings too were dwindling, but I've managed to get a few gigs here and there to make ends meet in other ways. I'm paying the bills as best I can and have cut down on all non-essentials. This part of life was already familiar territory; I just didn't think I'll come back to it any time soon.

I've avoided "staying busy" for its own sake. I felt it was important for my sanity to experience as much boredom as I can, between the little work I have, since I don't know if I'll get to experience it again later in life. This has left my imagination to flourish for the first time since entering the workforce as a kid.

I've been taking a walk every few days in the early morning like I used to and doing so with the mask on has been interesting to say the least. I don't know how effective it really is, but I think the best prevention is still not meeting anyone else on the road at 4AM. Most of the corner stores are open again during their regular hours, with heavy "mask required" signage.

It's strange that I'm getting used to recognizing people just by their eyes and body shape. The winter this year will be interesting too and I don't know how that will fare with the regular flu season on top. I wish I was as enthusiastic about this year's winter as I was during spring since it will be far harder for most folks to deal with. Winter will stil come.

This Too Shall Pass

2 min read

I've effectively been forced into early retirement.

While I have a bit of savings left, I haven't been working since March 18th and I no longer have a roommate. This does mean that I can no longer afford my mortgage. However, I'm hardly unique in this situation and I'm not sure how the building management will continue for the foreseeable future. There's still maintenance to be done and fuel needed for the water heaters, as well as electricity for the lobby and corridor lights, and the elevator too.

I don't know for how long this situation will last, but I'm confident I will live to see its end. I do have a compromised immune system, despite my forays into the woods. I get quite sick every flu season, even with the flu shots, and the seasons I've skipped the shots have left me in a zombie state for a few days. Full effects last at least a couple of weeks each season. I don't know if I have already contracted Coronavirus or have had a milder version of COVID-19, or whether it was yet another bout of the regular flu. I haven't been able to test myself. Most other people living in New York haven't been able to test themselves.

I'm still finding it very easy to pass the time. I get regular excercise and eat well. I have also skipped the early morning walks outdoors and transitioned to walking inside the apartment. I have a bit more space to do so now that my roommate is gone.

I'm staying mentally active by reading some of the books I've been putting off due to lack of time. I've been using the internet only sparingly as content is saturated with data on the pandemic and little actual news. Advertising continues.

All of my side projects have been put on hold. While time is plenty, resources are not. And I want to be frugal now more than ever before, at levels I've been used to since late high school, since there is no guarantee any aid will actually come from the government, both at the state and federal level.

It would be quite a challenge for the few of us remaining here. I'm almost alone on my floor now as my next closest neighbors have also moved out to a less populous area of New York. I hope the building will still be viable when they come back after this is all over. This will be over.


2 min read

I'm alive.

I've been in my apartment since March 18th. My building now seems abandoned from the outside, with the exception of the occasional maintenance dutifully carried out by the building supervisor. I haven't seen him or his family in person for days, but it's comforting to see his influence. Aside from a few neighbors, my floor is empty.

I can't do any more woodworking since going out for lumber is out of the question and I want to save my tools and the few remaining supplies for when I'll really need them. My roommate has gone to stay with his family for a while.

When I first moved into my apartment, I was delighted at how quiet it was at night, especially since a city is hardly a serene environment. Over the years, a few drips of motorcycles at midnight turned into a collapsing roof on my serenity which, thankfully, subsided the last few years. I think increased constraints on noise pollution helped. The pandemic has turned that serenity into an eerie silence at night.

For the last few days, I'm rediscovering the sounds of a living structure. I can hear little creaks which didn't phase into perception before. Rumbles of vent fans on the roof. And even birds. I used to run away into the woods in winter to find this kind of ambiance, but I never imagined I'd find it at home. I've used the label countless times, but this is the first time I thought of my apartment as truly my "home".

I thought by now, I would have gone completely mad by staying home, but I'm oddly comfortable being alone with my own thoughts than ever before.

I'm learning how silence works again.