Contagion

Your hands are raw from multiple washings. 

In the span of three days, your inbox was flooded with warnings: “School Health Update”; “Office Closure”; “Parenting in the time of Coronavirus”; “Coronavirus in preschoolers: Symptoms and what you need to know.”

This is the one that scared you: “Coronavirus updates: More lockdowns are starting.”

The St. Patrick’s Day Parade, March Madness, Church last Sunday — canceled. Daycare is closed. Work is remote until the month’s end. You suspect this will last longer.

You watched the virus numbers climb all weekend. The tone of the news, containment measures grows more urgent. Your stomach churns. You call your elderly neighbor and remind her you are here to help. You call your mom, desperate for the sound of her voice.

At 6 a.m. on Monday, you went to the grocery store wearing plastic gloves. With shaking hands you filled your cart to the brim with dry and frozen goods. There was no toilet paper or bleach to be found. You threw out your gloves afterwards, wiped down your car, washed your hands with scalding water. In the kitchen, unloading groceries, you break down. 

You think of your Dad, a grocery store manager, and all the other grocery store workers. The doctors, nurses, government workers, police officers. The homeless population here, and elsewhere. The vulnerable elderly — your grandmothers, both in their eighties. You bow your head and pray.

Your book club just read Emily St. Mandel’s, Station 11. In it, a virus much worse than this one wipes out the majority of the world’s population, effectively breaking down society. You believe that won’t happen, not with this virus, but the similarities are eerie. And yet Station 11 is a hopeful book, featuring a vagabond band of actors and musicians who travel from town to town spreading cheer. The troupe’s motto: Survival is insufficient.

Your thoughts keep circling back to it.

You know what we’ve forgotten: we rely on each other. 

You do your part to stop the spread, but keep your humanity. You stay home, disinfect surfaces, donate to others, contact your loved ones. You wash your hands again and again and your preschooler’s hands, too. 

You know that so much of this is out of your control. That you are dust. To dust you shall return.

You control what you can. Your fingers tap tap tap, heat up the keyboard, tell a story that’s still unfolding. You hope putting your fears down will make you less scared. You come home.

You look out at the empty streets, witness the neighborly care that’s unfolding. You are not alone.

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