An exclusive excerpt from Anne Elizabeth Moore’s “Body Horror: Capitalism, Fear, Misogyny, Jokes.”
The Coronavirus. People who aren’t worried about the coronavirus. People who are too worried about the coronavirus. The possibility that I am not worried enough about the coronavirus. Case counts. The reliability of case counts. The vaccines. People who aren’t vaccinated. The reasons people aren’t vaccinated. Getting vaccinated. The mRNA vaccines. My thyroid gland, thrown into disarray by the mRNA vaccine and apparently increasing my blood pressure to dangerous levels. Convincing a pharmacist in a rural red county to give me a booster that is not an mRNA vaccine. Convincing a pharmacist in a rural red county to give me a booster at all. Convincing a pharmacist in a rural red county that the coronavirus is real. Convincing a pharmacist in a rural red county to give me a booster as an immunocompromised person. Explaining to a pharmacist in a rural red county what being immunocompromised means. Convincing my doctor that the mRNA vaccine caused my thyroid disruption, the first I’ve experienced in over a decade, occasioned exclusively and to the day by my second mRNA vaccine booster. A new coronavirus strain. The effectiveness of masks. Buying more masks. Masking at outdoor gatherings. Transmission at outdoor gatherings. Outdoor gatherings. Being around other people. Not being around other people. The large and embarrassing zit that emerged on my cheek a few days back despite the fact that I am an adult, wash frequently, and do not consume sugar. My autoimmune diseases. The medications for my autoimmune diseases. The vitamins and supplements I take to counteract the medications for my autoimmune diseases. The likelihood of accruing more autoimmune diseases. The likelihood of accruing other diseases because of my autoimmune diseases. Being immunocompromised during a pandemic. Buying clothes during a pandemic. Going outside during a pandemic. Remaining inside during a pandemic. My left forefinger, currently swollen. My blood pressure, still high. My concentration, largely shot. Oh man, a buncha stuff. So much stuff!
What comes flooding in when I have a moment to breathe. The dead tree outside my window, and the path it will take when it falls. Mowing the lawn. Trimming the lawn. The survival of the monarch butterflies. What will happen to my cat if I don’t take her to the vet soon. What will happen to my cat if she keeps eating leaves from my fig tree. What will happen to my cat if I have a heart attack. Writing a will. Finding someone to sign my will as a witness who won’t freak out about my impending death. Refinishing my furniture in a pleasing enough manner that the beneficiary named in my will won’t just throw it away. The calcium supplements I have been taking, triple the recommended dosage, which turns out to cause high blood pressure. New lab results. More lab tests. Where to drop my sharps container. Paying for lab tests. My dwindling grant funding. Inflation. Winter heating bills. Utilities costs. Author-website maintenance costs. The cost of a new computer. Word processing software subscriptions. Book prices. Food prices. Cat food prices. Finding time to run. How running will affect my achy right knee. How running will affect my left leg. Not finding time to run. Where I can go to swim. Where I can go to swim during a spike in case counts. Focusing on my personal physical health during a global health crisis. Going out to eat with my food restrictions. Going out to eat during a period in American history where setting boundaries around personal health is unwelcome. Cooking for myself, again. Another new coronavirus strain. A new vaccine. Getting the new vaccine. This sore throat. This persistent cough. This fatigue. This diminished capacity to smell. This negative coronavirus-test result. Coughing in public after a negative coronavirus-test result. Coughing in public for any reason. People casually mentioning that they just tested positive for the coronavirus but feel fine. People who would never test for the coronavirus but clearly do not feel fine. This essay. Other essays. Writing. Not writing. Publishing. Not publishing. The publishing industry. The state of this nation’s democracy, such as it is. The avowed white supremacist who lives down the road. The Civil War reenactor up the block. The guy at the edge of the village with the flag outside his house that reads, “TRUMP 2024 FUCK YOUR FEELINGS.” The guy on the internet who tells me my feelings don’t matter. The guy on the internet who tells me I am stupid. The guy on the internet who responds to every post by telling me how hot I am. The guy on the internet who tells me he knows where I live. That my house sits on a hill that is visibly eroding. The oxycodone manufacturing plant in my village. The environmental repercussions of the oxycodone manufacturing plant in my village. The social repercussions of the oxycodone manufacturing plant in my village. The sheer volume of oxycodone that passes through this village. The sheer volume of guns within a five-mile vicinity of my home. How the vast majority of gun owners in this village fundamentally disagree with me on most basic matters. Not owning a gun. Owning a gun. A civil war. The current Democratic president. Any potential future Republican president. My blood pressure, now both too high and too low. Weaning myself off blood pressure medication. Getting enough calcium in my food without consuming dangerous supplements or dairy. The vitamin D supplements I have been taking too frequently, another cause of high blood pressure. How to get more vitamin D without supplements. Finding time to google every single thing I need to know more about just to survive the week. Remembering to google everything I need to know about to survive the week. Google knowing too much about me. Amazon. Amazon’s influence over publishing. Amazon’s move into housing. Amazon’s move into healthcare. That the calcium supplements I was taking at three times the dose I ordered and which substantially contributed to my high blood pressure were due to an Amazon shipping error. My Amazon rankings. Sales numbers of my current book. Sales numbers of this book. Sales numbers of my next book. Finishing my next book. Finishing this book. Writing books. Reading books. The surprise bill I just got for something that should be entirely covered by my insurance. Calling the insurance company, who tells me to call the billing department. Calling the billing department, who demands I call my RN. My RN, who was fired for refusing to get vaccinated against the coronavirus and then rehired after a couple of months out of desperation and who never got vaccinated. Calling back the billing department, who failed to file my paperwork with the insurance company because they were “too busy” and who asks me to file it myself. That my very complicated disease- maintenance program relies entirely on a medical facility who will charge me three hundred dollars for a fully covered five-minute doctor visit because they’re “too busy” to send the same paperwork to someone else. Dobbs v. Jackson. The women I know who will be affected by Dobbs v. Jackson. The nonbinary and trans people I know who will be affected by Dobbs v. Jackson. All the people I will never meet because of how severely their lives will be affected by Dobbs v. Jackson. Whether my political organizing in response to Dobbs v. Jackson will impact my own political career. Whether or not I can have a political career in a world where people with uteruses have no bodily autonomy. Whether or not I want a political career in a world where people with uteruses have no bodily autonomy. Whether or not I want to live in a world where some people have no bodily autonomy. The kind of people who want to live in a world where some people have no bodily autonomy. Republicans. Democrats. Being told to vote in response to bad policy. Being told to vote by a political party that has more money than god. Being told to vote by the people I voted for. Being told to vote in a world where voting rights are being stripped away from increasing numbers of people. That two out of four times I have tried to vote in this village I have been told I could not. This sudden, inexplicable grief that has no identifiable origin and no end, but some days recedes while I am in the shower and stays in the background for a while, perhaps days, but at other times emerges while I am washing dishes or doing yoga or placing a forkful of salad in my mouth and causes intense chest pain and sudden tears and colors everything gray and that no amount of crying or meditating or talking to friends or sitting in the woods can alleviate in any way. Why my sunflowers have not yet opened. What is going on with my beans. The organic content of the soil in my garden. Why my herb bed isn’t filling out. Why my plum trees keep dying. What to do with all this compost. Where to get more raised beds. Wild parsnip. Buying a chain saw. Using a chain saw. Accidentally killing someone with a chain saw. And then wanting to do it again. Purposely murdering someone with a chain saw. Running for elected office. Running for elected office and then having nude pics unearthed on the internet. The kinds of people who run for office. The kinds of people who will never, ever run for office. The weird tendency my left leg has after I’ve been walking for a mile or so to sort of peter out, to stop performing at peak function, to bend less easily and not lift as high with each step, and how this appears to be a neurological, not a physical, symptom of my medications. Any neurological disease or symptom. Long COVID. Catching the coronavirus as an immunocompromised person and passing along a mutated strain. Accidentally killing someone—oh wait, that’s already listed. Mpox. Pretty much all straight white cis men. Straight white cis men who want to play devil’s advocate. Straight white cis men who just want to ask me one question about feminists. Straight white cis men who assure me they’re not racist. Straight white cis men who speak only to other straight white cis men. Introducing straight white cis men to one another in a professional capacity given the likelihood that they will develop some kind of lucrative project together, leaving me out entirely, often forgetting they ever knew me, that I introduced them, that I used to be their friend. Introducing straight white cis men to music I like. When straight white cis men express interest in my work because they are working on a similar subject. People who too aggressively want to befriend me. Obviously also people who have no interest in me. Engaging with elders in the community during a pandemic. Engaging with elders in the community in a collegial manner and immediately being treated as a sycophant. Becoming an elder in the community. Aging. Trying to behave as normal. Behaving as normal. Trying to remember what normal was. What normal was. The inexplicable knot in my stomach when I wake up every day that takes several hours to dissipate but seems really out of place because actually right now everything is fine, you know, relatively speaking. My dreams, which are often just more of the same. Sleeping, therefore. What will happen next. What will not happen next. How we will recover. Who will recover. Who will not recover.
From “Body Horror: Capitalism, Fear, Misogyny, Jokes” by Anne Elizabeth Moore. Excerpted with permission of Feminist Press. Copyright 2023 Anne Elizabeth Moore.