Photography © Shannon O’Connor
Many years ago, you didn’t leave your house for a while. You were ashamed of having been a lunatic, locked up because you thought you were God. When you stopped thinking that, you were embarrassed, so you didn’t go anywhere. You didn’t have a job or go to school or do anything, you hid from the world, and buried your head under your blankets.
Gradually, you came back to life. You got a job at a cheap retail store, and went to work every day. This saved you. You started to go to school and have friends. You became almost like a real person.
You got a job at a restaurant, and had to talk to people more often. You became yourself, the way you should be. You went to art shows and poetry readings. You even read poetry in front of people! The girl who didn’t leave her house for years, put her heart on the line for people to hear. And you flourished.
You traveled, to Barcelona, then to Paris, Washington D.C. You flew like a bird in these exotic places, and you tasted what the world was like. You, who were once insane, the craziest girl in the looney bin, walked down the Champs Elysees and ate pastries in Paris.
You had a wonderful life for a while.
Then Covid happened.
Nobody was supposed to leave their house. We weren’t supposed to go anywhere, for fear of catching the virus. You were stuck inside like everyone else.
You remembered how you used to be, before your grand adventures, when you were recovering from thinking you were God, and you never left your house.
You managed well not going anywhere. You got used to working at home, you had your Zoom meetings, you had books and Netflix, but the nagging reminder of how your former life haunted you. You’re a person who can entertain yourself, and you don’t need to be around people.
You don’t need cafes and museums, and Paris and airplanes. You don’t need fun all the time. You like to go out, but you like to stay in.
Covid wanes and waxes with all the surges, and you become secretly happy every time there’s a resurgence. You don’t want to have to go anywhere. You don’t want to sit in an office, and spend all day working.
You stay in your house with your memories of places you’ve been, and look at photos you’ve taken, and you wonder how you did it, how you traveled, got on a plane, and went to strange cities by yourself. The thought of that scares you a little. Not just getting on a plane, but being somewhere you might not be safe.
You’re not a person who’s terrified of everything, but you don’t want to put your life at risk. You dream of rainbows and the Eiffel Tower, and chocolate croissants.
You like hunkering down with your books and yourself, but there’s a wider world out there. You lived there, and you enjoyed it. But you wonder if there’s a point to going outside.
If you can have a life, a job, go shopping, socialize, all in your house, why do you need to leave? Why can’t we do everything at home all the time?
You look out the window, and a hawk swoops down and perches on a branch. The hawk fears nothing. You shouldn’t either. You should learn to live like the hawk and not be afraid to reach new heights and soar.
You prepare to transform into a butterfly again, like you did years ago when you came out of your previous cocoon. It’s not too late to learn to fly again.
Shannon O’Connor holds an MFA from Bennington College. She has been published in Oddball previously, as well as 365 Tomorrows, Wordgathering, and others. During the height of COVID, she learned how to play the tin whistle, and became an Amelia Earhart impersonator. She lives in the Boston area, and works at a hospital.