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Lyz Lenz is Still Thinking About Death


From "Men Yell at Me"

I went to Sioux City last weekend to research a story I’m working on. While I was there, I met up with Ty Rushing, the former managing editor of the Newton Daily News. We met in a dive bar in North Sioux City.


Walking up to the building, I grabbed the door to go inside and then panicked. I let go. Then, I went around back to the outdoor seating area and stood awkwardly looking around, wondering why it was empty, why all the noise was coming from inside. “Was that just you at the door?” Ty texted. I tried to laugh at myself. Of course, I could go inside. I was vaccinated. So was he. I could go inside. I repeated it like a mantra. I could go inside. I could go inside. I walked around to the front again and opened the door and then walked in.


The bar was lined with people. Bodies leaning, mouths breathing, legs touching. Fingers and arms wreathed around cans and glasses. No masks. Maybe they were vaccinated too. Although it didn’t seem likely. Not here, anyway, where vaccine hesitancy is high.

When I walked up to the bar to order, an older man made a comment. The sort of comment that’s meant to be friendly and strike up a meaningless conversation. The sorts of meaningless conversations I used to be so good at. The ones I’ve been missing. I didn’t reply. He didn’t have a mask, and I folded my hands across my chest. I wasn’t trying to be an asshole. I just didn’t know how to orient myself to this world.

“Is this the new bouncer?” he joked. I knew I had to say something. I had to be friendly. I had to talk. It wasn’t about him; it was about me. I couldn’t think about the air, the closeness of strangers, our teetering proximity to disease. I couldn’t think about how in this town, where the pandemic had been the worst, how so many meat-packing plant workers had died and no one seemed to care. How the state had forced the plants back open so people could eat their meat, and we still don’t know the true human cost of that calculation.

I felt light-headed, but I forced a smile. I told him I’m the sort who gets kicked out of bars rather than doing the kicking out. It was enough. We laughed and joked about beer. I turned back to the table with my order. I sat down and drank a beer with a friend inside....

Read the rest on "Men Yell At Me," Lyz Lenz's Substack column. This is one we don't mind paying for, and you won't, either, but a lot of her posts are free. The author of Godland and Belabored, Lenz's book-in-progress is This American Ex-Wife. Her reading recommendation for getting through the pandemic is at The Journal here.

She also has - omg - 65k Twitter followers. Because she's funny. See her schtick on Twitter: @lyzl