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My name is Kurt Warner and I graduated with a bachelor’s degree in English Literature from King’s College in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. I also hold an LMSW in social work and work extensively with a wide array of people with issues that include domestic violence and poverty.
Most of the time, I stay in my basement. I feel safest there. My wife and I have a bilevel house and the basement is partially underground. It being partially underground provides, to me, another layer or of protection against COVID-19. It's further removed from society. That makes it safer. I know I need to stay away from people. At least that's what Governor Cuomo says. And he's really the only one I trust. I should probably mention now that I have OCD. And when I say OCD I mean I exemplify the daily contamination, checking, hoarding, doubting, ritualistic madness that typifies it. Of course that makes everything worse… drives me to madness. I normally wash my hands between twenty-five and forty times per day. Since the coronavirus spread everywhere, I have counted (more OCD) between sixty and eighty times washing my hands each day. They are all cracked from dryness and in the cracks there is often blood. It's a real problem. I try to escape it through reading. I find myself reading any chance I get. I always did but now I read non-stop. I find No Exit the most comforting book right now. It encourages me to stay away from other people. The book's protagonist, Joseph Garcin, realizes that being around other people is infinitely torturous. It seems fitting to try to believe that now for everyone's benefit. I read and I don't leave home much. Since March 20th – when we were told to work from home – my house is the background for our existence. Every day since then follows the same pattern: at night, I keep all the windows and door shut no matter how hot so that I am not breathing in contaminated air when I sleep. I wake and read for a few hours and then listen to the news. I eat one single package of instant cream of wheat – I can ration one package per day and eat a full box in ten days. This is very valuable because it reduces grocery visits. While I eat breakfast every day, the weekdays are for my “essential” work. I thank God I can do most of it from home but from what they're saying that won't be much longer. I am a social worker - my job is essential and God knows people really need us now. But I still spend most of my time thinking about how I can do every single facet of my job from home. In the end, though, it is social work. Usually about once per day I have to go out and meet a client due to some issue. I would like to wear a space suit to meet with people. But I can't. So I bought a specific kind of cloth and asked a friend to sew masks for me. I don't breathe when outside without one over my face. I've found that my masks have robbed me from my physical identity. When half of your face is covered and you resemble Batman more than yourself, your sense of physical identify fades. That's been my experience. It is hot and sweaty and exhausting in masks. But I know that I must wear them. Avoidance is even safer. I avoid pretty much everyone like the plague. I view the office or anywhere people congregate as if it were a germ box. I even go to church on television. Rather than venture into the germs, I prefer the comfort of my underground basement. And I'm there most of the day each day. I watch Governor Cuomo's daily briefing. I eat lunch that I make with my own hands (and dinner). My wife keeps a constant tally on her phone of what we need. She has asthma and therefore is vulnerable and so I know I have to be extra vigilant and extra careful for her. We both admire the grocery workers and the Instacart workers and everyone who takes the risks to benefit everyone else. They are the heroes that don't get talked about as much. And they do it for next to nothing. From time to time I'll text someone is also fortunate enough to work from home. I have my wife to talk to and she's great and all but sometimes I'd like to talk to someone else. It's really no use. Everyone is either afraid and doesn't talk much or doesn't fear it at all and talks too much. But it's at the center of everything now and I hate that. I'd rather escape in a book or a movie. At the beginning of the movie 10 Cloverfield Lane, a woman gets in a car crash and wakes up in an underground bunker with two men. They tell her that the earth is uninhabitable due to an attack. They tell her the only hope for survival is to remain inside the bunker. The coronavirus feels a lot like that. I feel like the protagonist in the movie. Only, I know what everyone is saying is true and the disease is real and that this is occurring. All I feel I can do is my job and read and write and listen to news and mourn. I mourn for all those who have been devastated economically by the lay offs and closures and I mourn for the thousands and thousands who have died. And I mourn for the millions who have gotten the virus and lived and do not know what to expect next for their health. And I mourn for us all from my basement where I hope and I pray I can stay until this is over.
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