i just want you to know

there's a scene in the last episode of season one of Space Force where scientist Dr. Chan Kaifang calls astronaut Angela Ali from Earth while she's on the moon, on the night before she is slated to go into battle, as one does on the moon. when she picks up the call she says, “i kind of thought you were calling me with an ‘i just want you to know’... you know, when people are like, 'if we never see each other again, i just want you to know... how i feel?'" he stops her, barely hides a smile, dons his best serious face, and reminds her that all communications with the launch room are recorded for posterity, captain. it doesn't matter; you already know how they feel—but some things are too precious to broadcast over airwaves; they demand the gravity of an in-person conversation.

i won‘t write about Friday March 13th, because i'm sure you can tell me exactly where you were at the time and what you were doing and who you were with and whether or not you tried going to the grocery store. i'm sure you could recall your backup plan for what you were going to do if the world was, indeed, ending. that will be a story that people will pass down through time, or at least write about incessantly on the internet. everyone has a story and it's relatable as hell. i'm sure you'll tell it in conversation at parties soon enough.

i want to know what happened after.

i'll start: i sat on a yoga mat on my floor in my 399-square-foot-including-the-balcony studio apartment with all the lights off and cried. several nights in a row. i think i might have intermittently dialed into some Discord calls to play Skribbl with friends, because that was a welcome distraction from thinking. inbetween, i sat on my floor and cried. i don't think i could have told you why. the simplest explanation would be that i was lonely and scared, but it was bigger than that, wasn't it? we were all lonely and scared together at the same time. surely that counts for something.

when i finally sat down in my front of my computer, i thought i would write about the pandemic, or something. instead, i contemplated the things i had procrastinated because i thought i would have infinite time to do them later: cities to visit and concert halls filled with live music and apologies to be made and all the ways that i would be better tomorrow. i wrote about a world that i had always meant to get to know. i scheduled video calls and wrote check-in texts and doom-scrolled social media for relatable end-of-the-world content.

eventually, i wrote and sent a letter to someone i hadn't spoken to in years, who i had left on read four years earlier, who i assumed i would never speak to again in this life. i titled it "you'll probably never read this but", because if you're going to spring someone with an "i just want you to know" then you may as well entirely commit to the melodrama of the moment. i had written, here are some things i wanted you to know and ended it with, i hope this life—wherever it took you—has turned to be everything you hoped for. it was all true. i didn't know if it would ever be read by my intended recipient, but the act of sending unsaid things into the universe felt a little like redemption.

from the place we're standing now, i know that we made it. the end of this whole nightmare is within sight. but during those early days we didn't know where we would end up; nothing was certain except for uncertainty. we had only an infinite present stretching out in front of us; we were staring into a dark ocean without a lifeboat or even a ripple in sight.

all at once, we struggled with the revelation of our own finiteness—collectively facing down the fact that we don't know how many sunsets we have left; how many people in this life we've already had last conversations with. suddenly we were all texting our exes and the friends we got into never-speaking-to-you-again fights with and everyone who had ever wronged us to tell them that we were thinking of them and we hoped that they were doing well despite these crazy times. there are so many songs written about moments like this—lyrics somewhere between i hope you never hear this and these are all the things i never told you and this is yours if you want it. a moment of collective weakness became a forcing function for tenderness and vulnerability; tenderness which gave way to “i just want you to know” moments, “i just want you to know” moments which turned into redemption stories, some which are still in the making.

for the lucky ones, the pandemic left us relatively unscathed minus some lost time—best case scenario, it has been the sketch of a redemption arc in the long narrative of human history. are we gentler for having experienced this together? did you bargain with the universe to hold time spent with friends and family more sacred, every in-person conversation more precious? i want to know what you did when it first felt like everything was falling apart, and what you thought about when you first realized that there are humans that you have already known for the last time. i want to know the story of how you came to terms with our collective finiteness. i hope you hold yourself to the promises you made when you were most fragile.

i hope you love better. i hope you tell people how you feel, say yes to every adventure, spend less time keeping score. i hope you don't wait for the next “i just want you to know” moment, because i know now that we don't know when everything changes forever. i hope the pandemic gave you second chances. i hope you're making the most of them.

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