[At Zendik Farm, sick people – “sickies” – were quarantined, that is, exiled to the trailer or a date space, supposedly to prevent them from infecting others. Quarantine did not prevent illness from spreading. But it did have side effects.]
Being quarantined in the trailer is hell in some ways, heaven in others. It’s hell because, after years of being around people constantly, you’re all alone. You have no one to talk to, and you can never be sure what people are saying about you. You never know when there might be a knock on the door, heralding a “friend” bearing news of the definitive—and bad—psychic cause of your illness. It could be: “You hate your box,” or, “You’re competitive with Arol,” or, “You never learned how to be friendly.” You also don’t have much to do. You’re pretty much limited to reading (if you’ve brought books from your space, or if you can convince a healthy person to raid the library for you) and writing—mostly about the psychic cause of your sickness. You have to go outside to pee, and trek to the outhouse to poop, no matter how bad you feel. The only usable flush toilets on the farm are in the Log House and the Addition, and those are off-limits. Sure there’s the toilet house—built for the bowels of we the people—but it’s never really worked right, and you wouldn’t want someone seeing you using it, thinking you’re a wimp, blaming you for the septic smell trickling towards the creek. You can’t go in the bath house unless no one else is in there. You can’t get food for yourself. Theoretically, someone will bring you food at mealtimes, but you can’t count on it. If no one remembers it’s up to you to go stand outside the kitchen door and look pathetic, till someone notices you. Or, if you’re feeling really bold, you knock. In which case you may or may not be ignored because anyone who answers your knock knows that he or she will then be responsible for getting your food, or getting someone else to do it, and maybe he or she is busy right now. Then when you do get your food it may be too much or too little, or it may not be seasoned properly, but you can’t do a damn thing about it because you can’t go in the kitchen. If you have a boyfriend or girlfriend, he or she may or may not come to visit you, depending on whether or not it’s generally believed that the cause of your illness is your relationship.
Mostly, in the trailer, you sleep. You search your dreams for clues as to the cause of your predicament, you dredge the dark soil of your soul. You pray for an answer that will make you whole.
The paradisiacal aspect of being in the trailer is that nobody bugs you. Also, you don’t have to work. No one wants to come near you, much less work with you. You don’t have to go selling. In fact, if you’re on a selling trip and you get sick, the other sellers will get pissed at you because they’re stuck in the van with you and they don’t want to get sick too; they’ll ream you for not anticipating your illness, and staying home.
You have lots of time to yourself, in the trailer. Enough to read the entire Lord of the Rings trilogy, so you’ll be able to imagine Middle Earth at least once for yourself before the whole farm troops off to see The Fellowship of the Ring at a theater in Forest City, homemade popcorn in backpacks and peanut-butter rice cakes in pockets.
So there are benefits to being bed-ridden. But the overwhelming wave of it—when I’m awake anyway—is a subtle but persistent panic. I don’t trust myself alone. I’m certain I’m missing something vital to my evolution. And I’ve learned, in the past two years, that being by myself is bad, that I will inevitably screw up/become hardened if separated from the constant companionship/oversight/input of my fellow Zendiks.