The Virtual Meetings of a Pandemic

May 06, 2020

In an effort to be productive at a time when it's tempting to do nothing, I have signed up to various courses conducted virtually. One of these classes was a Monologue Masterclass by my acting school back in Singapore, the Haque Centre of Acting and Creativity (HCAC). The obvious advantage of being able to attend lessons online is that I don't even need to be in the same timezone as the class. Thank you, technology! So on five of my early Monday mornings, I have started the day with a 2-hr session with my HCAC class.

This particular masterclass includes writing and performing our own monologue. While I felt like I shot myself on the foot by writing something that was personal and an emotionally heavy topic for me, I had a very cathartic experience of writing this piece and performing it for the first time in one of our feedback sessions.  

I have pasted the entire first draft below. 

Currently, this has been edited and transformed into a more coherent piece. I'm choosing to share the first version here for its rawness, and also because I want my blog to have more entries that are very important to me.

The Virtual Meetings of a Pandemic
Jen Pelaez

I know, I know--You're probably tired hearing about yet another pandemic story.
This is not going to be about running out of toilet papers.
Nor is it going to be about hoarding pasta, bread products, or flour.
I want to keep it light so I will leave the sob stories to Susan from Marketing.

Today I just want to tell you about the virtual meetings that have become the new norm, at least in my life.

Right now, as long as there's internet, I can work from home.
It's so easy to set up a Microsoft Teams meeting with a colleague to discuss work.
Need to conduct a client presentation? Oh! That's easy.
I can set up a Webex without even blinking.

And right after a long day at work, there's now a virtual happy hour.
I can invite anyone of you into my Zoom, and we can all drink whatever we want.
No need to be stuck being the designated driver because… hello? We're at home!
The good news is: I don't even need to pretend to like the cheap alcohol that my friends bring over.

And what is a drinking chat without an eating chat?
To lessen the loneliness, I now cook with friends who are also cooking on video.
We will carefully plate the food and make sure it's Gram-worthy.
Then we can all congratulate each other for doing bare minimum as adults, and not spending at least 50 dollars plus Tip by ordering in.
Oh and yes, of course I'll eventually eat the now-cold food too.

To further ease the guilt of a comfortable staying-at-home life, I have weekly HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) sessions with my gal pals.
Right after sweating is when I'll schedule my FaceTime dates, one guy after another.
It's not like I have much on my social calendar anyway, might as well do it after my workout glow.
Another guy doesn't have FaceTime so that's when I'll pull out Whatsapp Video Call.

Then there it was, the fateful Messenger video call.
I tried to process the information but over the first 30 minutes I didn't really get it.
My good friend was found unconscious at home.
He suffered a stroke and brain bleeding, they said.
He was intubated and in a coma.
I don't really get it. Will he wake up soon? Maybe we can give him a video call?

The next 30 minutes became a planning session of what we can do to help our friend.
I contacted a doctor who knew a neurosurgeon who can operate and has space in the ICU.
I stayed up as late as I can so I won't miss a lot of updates.
I said my friend will be fine. But deep inside, I knew I was scared.
I was scared that if I slept, he'd be gone when I woke up.

I woke up, and he's still fighting.
I knew he would. He's very strong.

And because everything was fine, I attended my first ever Monologue Masterclass hosted over Zoom.
I got off the class, and received another Zoom video call.

My good friend had just passed away.
In this call were 20 or so people.
A lot of them I don't actually know.

20 or so people, mostly living in Asia with their drink of choice in hand.
20 or so people, simultaneously crying.
20 or so people, celebrating the life of a mutual friend.

I said I was gonna keep it light.
Sorry. I lied.

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