Dispatch #021

Dull reverberation, reality television, and staying sane in quarantine

My name is Molly Smith and I’m a creative writer based in Denver. As a single person living alone during the pandemic, my isolation has impacted my daily life in unusual ways…

By Molly Smith | Denver, Colorado

I’ve been isolated in my one-bedroom apartment for eight weeks. The silence–not the loneliness–is unbearable. I can’t stand the absence of human background noise: extra pairs of footsteps, whispered chatter, doors groaning open, bar stools shuffling. That’s why I have trashy reality TV playing on loop and haven’t finished a substantive book since March.

Love Island Australia is an adaptation of a British reality show where a group of hot people stay in a vacation home together and try to pair up, or else they’re at risk of getting “dumped” from the island, forced to go back home to their part-time modeling jobs or whatever. It’s basically just a compilation of twentysomethings talking about which couple they predict will break up by next week, peppered with some b-roll of pretty people laying on outdoor daybeds and panoramic views of the ocean. For three episodes, the plot is driven by whether one contestant is capable of finding love in spite of his slightly below-average height. Spoiler: he isn’t, and he doesn’t. 

The show’s low budget and overall shallowness has made it the perfect undertone of my quarantine, filling 650 square feet with vague hallway echoes, wind brushing on the microphones, pool water splashes, and trivial conversations completely devoid of a global crisis.

Early in the pandemic, I was afraid that physical distance would strain my relationships, but the opposite is true. I connect with my friends every day and say “I love you” more than ever. Through isolation, I’ve discovered that my aloneness doesn’t look like sadness or a disconnection from the rest of the world–instead, it’s the persistent anxiety I experience when I’m deprived of the sweet hum of boring life in my periphery. 

I miss talking about nothing. I miss kissing for the hell of it. I miss eye candy without masks. I miss being on vacation in Hawaii with my ex, and how our lack of an agenda was a pleasure, not a daily, ceaseless burden. I miss eavesdropping on couples arguing at restaurants. I miss speculating about my friends’ dates instead of speculating next month’s COVID-19 death toll. Love Island Australia–as the contestants would say about their perfect mate–checks all the boxes. 

May 3, 2020

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