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Column: Curiouser and curiouser, this COVID life
Shannon Casas high res
Shannon Casas

Somehow it is November. The COVID time warp has spit us out somewhere in Alice’s Wonderland — in a place where the Cheshire cat keeps appearing and disappearing, giving anyone paying attention an unsettling feeling. The White Rabbit’s pocketwatch seems to have spun forward, and while it’d be nice to wake from this strangest of dreams, it seems we’re stuck in topsy turvy Wonderland and must make the best of it.

Inside this Wonderland, sometimes it feels like I’ve drank the potion that made Alice grow too big. Not that I gained the COVID-15, something akin to the freshman 15, but that I’ve bumped my head on the ceiling, unaware of how much space I take up. Like something changed rather suddenly and I don’t know how to walk about properly and right-sized. Also, though, I don’t fit into all my pre-COVID pants. 

I’m not going to shed any giant tears over that and get swept away in a river of them, but I do still find myself trying to find the potion to shrink back to normal size or better yet find the way out of Wonderland.

I feel like a stranger walking about here, where my words and meanings may be misunderstood. Like nothing is quite what it appears. 

I’m not sure how the other characters may perceive me and I find myself second guessing my interactions.

At the same time, I find myself wanting to find the mad tea party. A party sounds like a good time, except that I’m unclear whether I should wear a mask or what topics can be safely discussed.

Is it mad to host a tea party when the guests could catch COVID? Does it make any sense to require guests to wear masks except when taking a sip of their tea? Will the guests even come or will the anxieties of interacting in a crowd make the whole thing moot? 

Is it madder still to even host a tea party at all when the guests may disagree on important topics like the politics of the Queen? Then again, say the wrong thing at the tea party, and perhaps the Queen will jump out from the bushes with a shout of “Off with your head.”

Can we extend any grace at the table for mistakes and misperceptions? 

The rules seem at once unclear and unforgiving. Is exploring Wonderland and connecting with its strange creatures better or worse than finding ourselves alone?

Or did we become the strange creatures when we isolated ourselves? With no one around to judge, did we steal the tarts and eat them all, too? Or did we just lean into our idiosyncrasies and now find ourselves unable to conform to the expectations of Wonderland?

Are we allowed to grow larger or must we find the stuff to shrink us down smaller so we can fit into the puzzle?

If we throw the Cheshire cat out of Wonderland, will the place make more sense? I always hated that creepy grin. The fact it keeps lingering is just disconcerting — something I can forget a while but subconsciously still grates.

Or maybe all the creatures just want to be understood along with Alice. Maybe we need the mad tea party, troublesome as it may be.

Shannon Casas is editor in chief of The Times and a North Hall resident.