Just keep shaving.
The most moving moment in the zombie-plague film 28 Days Later involves no death or speech or kiss. It’s Cillian Murphy shaving.
Having fled from zombies for days with some others, Murphy’s character reaches a high rise where a father and daughter have successfully barricaded themselves. They talk and they plan, and I believe they talk about the loss of the girl’s mother - so many years after viewing the movie, I cannot recall most of the details. I just remember the speechless scene that follows.
Murphy stands in front a mirror with his unkempt beard stretching far down his neck. It’s less beard and more furband, really. There is no shaving cream, and there is only cold water. The razor is dull. It’s a scraping, unpleasant shave. But he does it.
Murphy steps out of the bathroom. From the first moments we saw him, waking from a coma in a desolated hospital, he has had this bedraggled facial hair. Now, cleanshaven, the people he has been with are taken aback. It’s tempting to say he transformed. But really, he reclaimed himself.
Despite the chaos around him, he wanted to shave because he insisted on his humanity. To do otherwise would be an overreaction: when things are bad, we must not give in to despair, because there is more hope than we see. Fear is normal - he had fled from a zombie horde, after all - but he refused to sacrifice his humanity to it, even holed up in a tiny apartment.
The coronavirus has not reached my New York county yet, officially, but it’s hard to say what adequate testing will soon reveal. Our appointments and social engagements have been cancelled. As a teacher I will attend a conference day tomorrow, and I will see my students for one more day Tuesday before the state of emergency goes into effect. Then, I will not see them again for nearly a month.
I’m going to offer my students some books, a bit of work I will try to persuade them to do. I’m going to hand out a recommended Netflix watch list, and I’ll schedule some Zoom conferences for anyone who is hungry for some academic interaction, either about A Series of Unfortunate Events (Neil Patrick Harris rocks) or the books. I'll ensure my daughters at home keep getting some education. I do not know when they will next see their grandparents, but we'll have regular "read with Grandma and Grandpa" times on Skype. I'll probably have a lot more time for Prose than I've had lately. I'll keep an eye out for a local need for volunteers to deliver meals for seniors, which I think will likely be coming.
I won't be going out unless I need to, but I'll shave anyway.
After my freshman year of college I landed at internship in Pittsburgh, and one morning an ugly traffic snarl brought all the commuters on I-79 to a complete standstill for two hours. People got out of their cars and chatted. A few people tossed a football back and forth in the median. I can't help but wonder what let through more of our humanity that day: the morning commute we began like every day, or that standstill?
Let's flatten the curve, guys. And even as we socially distance, let's be human to one another. And ourselves.