MICHAEL: What about the Netherlands?
ALEXANDRA: It’s a little late to plan a summer getaway, don’t you think? Besides… planes. Carbon footprint. Did you read that New York Times piece about Russia and the permafrost?
MICHAEL: I haven’t been able to pick up the Gray Lady since that “Unity” headline. I wonder if the dutch mainstream media is any better or if they, too, are wasting their readers’ time with articles questioning the electability of anyone who isn’t a white, cis, hetero male.
ALEXANDRA: Well it was terrifying. I may never fly again. Or drive. Or buy single-serving anything. On the plus side, I can stop pretending I enjoy drinking Soylent.
MICHAEL: You would fly one way for our move to the Netherlands though, right? Seems like a pretty great place to live. And they have this special visa for freelance artists…
ALEXANDRA: First you want to foster immigrants and now you want to BE immigrants?
MICHAEL: I AM NOT BUILT FOR WAR, ALEX.
ALEXANDRA: Look the permafrost article was scary, but I’m not 100% sold that the water wars will happen in our lifetime. The UN’s latest report makes it seem WAY more likely that mass starvation and malnutrition will be how we watch most of the world’s population die.
MICHAEL: When I said I’d stay to fight, here in America, I meant with words, donations, my votes… maybe I envisioned some minor physical incidents like a little tear gas or some rough handcuffing should a protest devolve into a little civil disobedience. Civil disobedience I can wrap my brain around, Alex. Civil war, I cannot. Every time I think there’s a way I can prepare for another war between the states, my metaphorical yoga mat gets pulled right out from under me! You want to talk about disturbing articles set in Russia? I was reading some Smithsonian piece about this family that fled religious persecution and lived apart from civilization for 40 years. When their wheat crop failed, the family agreed to forego sleep for an entire season, taking turns guarding the one and only stalk that grew so that they might have seeds to plant the following spring. I can’t even remember the monthly watering necessary to keep our aloe plant alive, Alex. I barely have the attention span to finish one of those WaPo breaking news alert pieces comprised of a single informational sentence and the standard “This story is still developing,” disclaimer. HOW THE HELL ARE WE GOING TO GROW ENOUGH FOOD TO SUSTAIN US?
ALEXANDRA: Oh honey, when society collapses it’ll be years before the marauding has decreased to levels where we could even attempt to stay in place long enough to farm. I do so adore your optimism, though.
MICHAEL: THAT ISN’T HELPING, ALEX. It’s not just mental stamina that I’m lacking. Now mere moments after I resolved to double down on my fitness regime, I find out my beloved Soul Cycle is a front for white supremacy.
ALEXANDRA: Careful, “regime” might be one of those banned words. Since protesting is increasingly considered terrorism at the state level, we may need to be more thoughtful in our word choice.
MICHAEL: Fine. Regimen. Whatever. Point is, I’d hoped to get back to my non-violent-social-change weight over the summer but it turns out ice cream is one hell of a comfort food. Now I’m going to eat as much of it as possible while there’s still a power grid and refrigeration. In fact, I’m going to have some now thanks to your lovely reminder that when shit goes dark for real we aren’t going to be Instagramming the cast of Hadestown jamming in the streets.
ALEXANDRA: We have to get you out of your own head, babe. Want me to load up that Lizzo Tiny Desk concert for you? Maybe you want to watch the 90210 reboot and debate who has the best plastic surgeon? Speaking of ’90s TV, did you see Lego is releasing a Central Perk set next month?
MICHAEL: You always know the way to my heart, Alex. I would love to add a tiny, modular Ross to my collection of Friends paraphernalia. Can we buy it online, though? You couldn’t pay me to visit a mall right now. My anxiety was so bad yesterday that I bailed on the Jews Against Ice occupation of the Amazon store in midtown. Huh. Wouldn’t it be something if all the mass shootings lately were somehow orchestrated by Jeff Bezos to drive more sales online?
ALEXANDRA: That’s way more plausible than the notion of Hillary murdering Epstein. Yet only one of these conspiracy theories was retweeted by 45. I wish Twitter would freeze him out and refreeze Moscow Mitch. If this administration has proven anything, it’s that we should never again underestimate the level of destruction and trauma some people will inflict upon others for a profit.
MICHAEL: That’s not exactly a silver lining, Alex.
ALEXANDRA: No. And trying to find one would be as tacky as taking a publicity photo with an orphaned baby too young to give consent. But people ARE starting to use phrases like “domestic terrorism” and “white nationalism” when talking about these shootings. Almost as often as they use the term “mental health.” That wouldn’t have happened three years ago.
MICHAEL: Maybe. Honestly? I haven’t felt this unsafe since those first terrifying days after 9/11.
ALEXANDRA: Hold on. I’m sure there’s a Toni Morrison quote I can find to make you feel better. Lemme just scroll a moment…
MICHAEL: I hate feeling like this. I hate it, Alex. I hate us.
ALEXANDRA: I know. Me, too, sometimes. I can’t see a piece of pepperoni pizza now without picturing that little girl holding her head and sobbing after ending her first day of school by learning her parents had been arrested in a mass immigration raid. Tiki torches conjure no thoughts of patio parties. And red ball caps? Forget it. It feels like everything that was ever good has been tainted. But we took the red pill, Neo. More and more of the country is waking up and doing the same. You have to see that, believe that.
MICHAEL: Maybe. But at least in the Netherlands we wouldn’t have had an outrageous copay to get the prescription.