S T O R I E S I N T H E T I M E O F A P A N D E M I C
The Pandemic Elections
On Tuesday, April 7th, 2020, the Wisconsin, USA Primary Elections were held during a global pandemic.
I am standing in the middle of a massacre. It is gentle and orderly. It is very, very quiet. It is not like what I envisioned when I thought that someday, there would be blood. Today the people are shuffled along, one at a time under the sweet springtime sun, the daffodils blooming in their beds. People will die because of what has happened today.
In the morning I stare blankly into my oatmeal. Braid my hair. Arrange my shawl. I imagine the deaths of countless people, and I count my own dead. I do this while eating breakfast, each morning. For me it is only four.
I hold my breath and count to four.
In the video chat there are four of us cousins having coffee, talking about falling in love. Shuffling our cards. When we draw cards, there are questions we don’t ask. Who will die? Who else that I love will die? For me it is only four. I hold my breath again. I tell myself, if I can hold my breath, I am not sick.
In this city, we are all afraid to breathe.
The massacre looks like rows of people extending for blocks. Seven blocks. Eight blocks. I think of how many blocks a mile is. I don’t know. I hold my breath and count to four. You can never know when the last time you will speak to anybody is going to be. The weight of it leans on me, and I straighten my back. I want to lay down on the sidewalk, but if I do, I will just not get up.
I look up at the empty overpass. It’s the one I take to drive to my cousin, who I have not hugged in weeks. In a silent city, you can hear birds, and all birds here are banshees, now. Beautiful, melodic reminders that it could be any one of us, next.
The massacre is a sea of masked faces you cannot look into. Everybody is very polite. It is easier when you cannot see the faces, I suspect. I wonder if they look into each other’s eyes at all, and think they might be looking into the eyes of the next casualty. This is a slow war. Moving like the way milk crawls across the floor after you spill it. When I come home I will spill, too, at the feeling of my own hands holding each other under scalding water.
I hold my breath and count to four. In the window of the yellow house at the end of my block, my neighbors have placed a sign in bright lettering that reads: Thank you to all the helpers. I see it and I crumble. We are so desperate for warmth.
Photo credit: Author