I can’t seem to shake this feeling — this sense that we’re living the first 10 minutes of a disaster movie, where the characters are being introduced before things really get organized in that handbag to hell. The news reports play in the background as we go about our lives, albeit in confinement. We’re aware of an impending doom, but are continuing in our attempts to sort out the fact from fiction. The world outside our windows seems regular enough, even if there does exist an eerie stillness.

The temptation is to fast forward to the end, skip the gritty scenes of human suffering and just feel the relief of seeing our heroes emerge unscathed and the sun rise on a better day. But this isn’t a movie, is it?

And then there’s the creeping sensation of deja vu — hasn’t this all happened before in my life? Why do I feel as if I have lived these days many times over? This bugs me, nags at my conscience, and forces me to stop and reflect. Haven’t I always felt this way, even if it’s been muted and blurred? Is it possible that every day that I have awoken on Chappy has been shaded by this feeling?

Chappy, itself, is a form of self-imposed quarantine. The social distancing is both real and purposeful. I have gone days in the winter without having met a single soul; losing my social skills faster than I could have imagined. Talking to the Stop & Shop cashier (something at which I am usually well skilled) becomes an exercise in relearning speech. And many, if not most, of these days have been exhilaratingly happy — the communion with myself, my thoughts and nature as pleasant as a lazy day lying in a field in the lightly wind-filtered sun.

Yet, there has remained a recognition that barely beyond the borders of my contentment lays suffering — be it future personal pain or the suffering of others less fortunate. The halo of safety and comfort that floats over me is more a singular experience than a communal. There are foreign wars, famine, cruelty and immense despair just outside the limits of my refuge. My happiness is the exception, not the norm. That reality lives within me, forever tempering the excesses of my joy.

And now those feelings have come home to roost. Those barriers between myself (ourselves) and the horrors of suffering have begun to erode. No longer is this someone else’s movie that we can observe and then distance. This is our show. The empty streets, the quiet skies, and the foreboding sense of bad yet to come belong to me, to you. Parents die alone in nursing home beds, their children unable to comfort them. Fear is the most present companion of the immunocompromised: a friend, a neighbor, a teacher, a father.

Worst of all though is the knowledge that this isn’t the worst of all. We know that people die daily from heart disease, gun violence, cancer, and a miasma of ills, but we assume some control over these troubles. Things will get better if we try hard enough.

This virus though, this unfeeling predator of our souls, advances relentlessly.

My generation, the tail end of Boomers, has witnessed little to no communal suffering. Our wars have been fought by others. “Our” participation is voluntary. Bosnia, Syria, Rwanda, Rhodesia, Kabul — these are places that have existed in our peripheral. We can blink our eyes and shake our heads and then refocus on the easy good in front of us.

But now every morning we wake, the suffering lurks in the ether outside our doors. Literally in the air.

Perhaps, hopefully, the damage will limited. The worst will not come to fruition. I think this remains the common refrain in our American brains that “science” will figure it out. We’re too smart to die.

In this limbo between belief and disbelief, it’s still fairly easy to be kind. We converse on the phone, by text, on Facebook. We offer each other encouragement and fellowship. We love each other at home and away. But what will happen when these facades of comfort fall down? What happens when we need to love despite suffering? Who will we be when resources become finite, when “what’s mine is yours” is no longer a luxury we can afford?

Love in the time of Corona may be the hardest love of our lives yet. We are approaching a defining moment in this century of our collective character.

Who am I? Who are you? Who are we? We’ll find out soon.

Brad Woodger is a resident of Plymouth and Chappaquiddick, where he manages the Royal and Ancient Chappaquiddick Links.