It’s our addiction. No, not Portuguese wine or port or fancy liquors. Hand sanitizer. Over the past year, I have become a connoisseur. Ask me anything. I can tell you where to find any kind you long for. I can explain the pros and cons of the sticky gels, the watery concoctions, the lavender-scented, ammonia-scented, scented-to-hide-the-scent scented. Even when we’re not looking, it’s looking at us via spritz bottles, spray bottles, and foot-pedalled dispensers. Store employees, when stores are open, greet you as greeters used to with perfume samples at Bonwit’s and Macy’s. Going in, they beg, desinfeta, por favor. Coming out, they beg, desinfeta, por favor. Dose after dose after dose. And then there are the containers we carry in our backpacks and pockets. Long after the pandemic is over, I will look for the free bottles of alcohol that now reside in the doorways of stores and restaurants and even buses, while patting my pockets for my own supply. I’ll never be free from the warm, cool, sticky, thick, watery, sweet, medicinal, disgusting stuff. Will you?

Likewise, masks. Now that we know more than we ever knew there was to know about the aerosolization of speech, spit, and snot, and know in visual, computerized detail, exactly how far the droplets of our shouts and whispers and songs travel under what circumstances – light wind, no wind, hurricanes, air conditioning – who among us will breathe in unmasked air? Vaccines are wonderful, but how about a liquid of another sort, a tinted chemical we can spritz into our personal space to judge the quality and quantity of the viral loads that surround us? Who’s working on that? There should be a prize.

Count me among the new breed of agoraphobics. Touch a menu? Touch coins? Borrow a pen? Join a crowd on an elevator? Not a chance. How are you?