“Well,” says my friend from two counties over, “what good is summer under pandemic conditions?”
“Put your medical marijuana to some real use,” I say, “and cough up a little imagination.”
“I don’t like to cough,” says my friend, “It scares the neighbors.”
“All right,” I say, “We’ll use my imagination. It’s not so phlegmy as yours. Shall I think of an indoor summer activity?”
“Right. So. Do you want to play with yourself?”
Silence through the ether.
“Don’t even think,” say I wading into the breach, “that such a question embarrasses you. And besides, I meant not what you seem to be thinking.”
“And you meant?”
“A game, you ass. I meant play a game with yourself. Like solitaire or Boggle.”
“I fail to see the difference,” my friend sniffs, “between Boggle and what I was thinking.”
I pivot. “Forget indoor summer games, which you seem to already have in hand. Instead, let’s think of some glorious, outdoor summer fun we can have in Chicago. Of course, we must factor in a few variables: 1) Plague; 2) All the good stuff is closed or cancelled; 3) I’ve been furloughed; 4) My mask stinks of garlic; 5) I view anyone not wearing a mask with fear and loathing, especially joggers, dog walkers and babies.”
“I must admit,” admits my friend, “that masks do improve the looks of some.”
“So let’s see…I know! Name something that Chicago has in abundance during the summer.”
“True, but no. Guess again.”
“Close. The answer is children.”
“I’ve read they have turned to cannibalism.”
“No rats, because the restaurants are closed. As far as I know, children have nothing to do with it.”
“You know, Jonathan Swift once modestly proposed that the way to solve hunger and overpopulation was to eat children.”
“He didn’t mean it, numbskull. It was satire. Now where was I? Oh yes, children!”
“You seem to be suggesting,” says my friend, rolling a suspicious eye, “that we throw out social distancing, not to mention social taboos, and have children over for summer barbecuing.”
“Good lord!” say I, “I said no such thing! I was merely going to suggest we take up crochet! Or some other Youtubified hobby we can half-ass learn while sheltering in our homes like frightened children who also happen to be bored, alone and probably drunk. Or at least buzzed.”
“Oh, fuck it,” says my friend slowly descending into Zoom gloom. “I suppose we’ll just have to sweat this summer out.”
“Just like all the others!” I say with no small measure of élan.
But my friend has abruptly abandoned me to the void. I turn off my computer. I play Boggle. I play it again.