“In the way he loads his fishing pack into the trunk of his ‘03 Volkswagen, you can tell Nick Maya’s mind is running. He fidgets with the buckles and curses at the holes in his old waders that he knows will let water in. His eyes dart around the car for anything he missed as he shuts the door, pausing to glance up at the jagged teeth of the Bitterroot Range. He exhales.
‘My dad got it,’ he says, checking his phone’s fading reception through a Ziploc bag. ‘Found out a couple of days ago.’
No need for formalities at this point. Saying ‘Coronavirus’ or “COVID-19” seems like a waste of breath. I’m guessing this is why Nick wanted to get out of the city for a bit, which doesn’t take long in a place like Missoula.
I’ve been following the way Nick has been negotiating this pandemic for a couple of months now, curious about the ways in which we’re all coping with the stress of “it.” Fly fishing is his. A recent transplant to Montana raised on both coasts, he’s found his calling doing habitat restoration projects for the local Center for Large Landscape Conservation while wrapping up a master’s degree at the University of Montana. He’s often talking about the pressure from a paper that needs to get written or a work deadline that’s coming up faster than he’d like. He fidgets. He stutters when he gets excited or nervous.
With his dad across the country in New York, it’s hard to blame Nick for feeling wound up. He is a young man in a pandemic: his work has been disrupted, his education got spun around, and his financial footing is shaky.
At the riverside he lingers, staring at his phone’s ‘No Service’ signal one last time, then stuffs it into his pack. He snatches up his rod and starts walking toward the water. As someone whose parents are equally susceptible to the virus, I can imagine the places Nick’s mind is going. The thought of burying the person who taught you to ride a bike or hammer a nail, who coached you through your first breakup, suddenly feels closer and realer than it should...”