Here, there be dragons.
If I sit in the common room – my preferred workspace – I can hear activities from all of my roommates’ rooms. (It’s better than Netflix, what can I say.) Lately, the apartment has reverberated to the sound of growling, roaring, blasts of flame and other special attacks. One roommate is deeply engaged in World of Warcraft; another, Old School RuneScape. The third roommate has a cat. The cat has, so far, produced slightly more growling and roaring, but slightly fewer blasts of flame, than the two games.
This flurry of constant activity dates to the start of shelter-in-place. Since mid-March, the roommates have been locked in battle with beasts great and small. (The cat appears to battle dust motes, but it has a win streak that surpasses the humans’.)
Every once in a while, they stumble forth from their rooms.
Mumbling into their headset microphones, they ravage the kitchen for keyboard-safe munchies. I hear the fridge, the microwave, the recyclable bin (in that order), and then a mad dash back to their lairs. (The cat is the exception; once it has made it to the common room it has no interest in returning to confinement.)
Every once in a while the roommates’ paths intersect. There is a moment of flurried panic as they realize they are trapped in the kitchen with another creature. This is followed by a few seconds of calculation. They gauge who is closest to the fridge and how much time remains on the microwave cycle. They eyeball the front door, and wonder if they have time to take out the recyclables or pick up the mail rather than stand in a rectangular box with another human. They evaluate their chances of remaining camouflaged against the cupboards if they hold – very – still – oh, darn it, he’s already seen me.
It’s not that they dislike each other. During other epochs, they have happily interracted.
It’s that they currently can’t afford distraction. They have their missions, their quests, their agendas. They have found purpose. They have found what gives their life meaning. Compared to the eternal urge of the hero’s quest, small talk barely signifies.
When one has faced dragons, there are no more small things to talk about.