So much of last year was spent braiding the same threads over and over again without knowing if a new design would finally emerge from our very limited routine. Wake up. Work out to help with depression and anxiety. Feed the children. Hug them too much. Homeschool them. Feed them again. Beg the nap to be your nap. Write about things directly and cry. Write about things indirectly and cry. Order food. Watch and breathe. Workout again because sobriety could give a shit about a pandemic. Sleep clutching the world. Replace the pillows after they become ribbons. Be the half-person. Be the whole person. Be the three people you’re required to be to make any of this feel normal for those in your care. Walk the dogs until all of you have no choice but to sleep on any available rug.
Honestly, I confess to the hesitancy of the moment. I was afraid my wife would get sick and die. I was afraid the children or my parents or the friends I love or even my coworkers at the library would get sick and die. I was afraid that my friends that were marching against the terrible violence here in Columbus and elsewhere would be killed or injured near the capital building or in an alley they might have been chased down. Then I did too much to try to try and catch up once I realized I was holding my breath and waiting. I said yes to every fundraiser. I said yes to every reading. I said yes to giving at every opportunity, and then I could not settle myself back down again. I kept the routine because it was keeping me, but like a lot of us I just never felt good the entire time.
It’s a new year and some of the old terribleness is still there, but when I look at the work you all produced this year I am taken aback. You folks let your blood rise above the hesitation, and you wrote the most incredible things. Reading the nominations that came in was fantastic. There were pieces that didn’t even become finalists this year that gave me a full-day’s energy. You all marched, protested, survived, and wrote yourselves through end after end after end. The pieces that were selected as finalists and then included in this year’s anthology are remarkable. Every person that wrote a story or a poem or an essay and kept it to themselves or submitted it or got it published are remarkable. I am very happy to help shine a light on the work included in this year’s anthology because it came from all of us. We lost a lot last year, but we didn’t lose everything. We will have each other, albeit at a distance, and we still have these incredible words.
There is a pale and maskless violence following us. Don’t look back right now. Learn the songs included in this year’s Best of the Net. Let them morph into a chant. Repeat them until you can feel their momentum gather inside of you. Please know that I will be doing the same thing. We will be together in that way at least. The fight is ongoing, but for a little while, the people who are trailing us will have to watch us stomp and sway.
Editor-in-Chief, Darren C. Demaree