i can’t get next to you

I am calm at home. I am content to be with my family and to take care of them. When leaving the house, I am to assume that everyone I come into contact with is a carrier for the Corona Virus. That makes grocery shopping a very anxiety provoking activity. But one that needs to get done.

Pre-Corona I shopped multiple times in a week at various stores. Now, I’m going once a week, if I can make the produce last that long.

Today I went to three stores to stock up on essentials. (Fortunately I didn’t need toilet paper – although Sam’s Club had plenty in supply.) It wasn’t until the third store that I had a breakdown. I realized that I was sweating. The underwire of my brassiere was soaked. My face was clammy. I was so worked up about being out of the safety of my home.

I had a bandana around my neck that I would slip over my nose if I was within six feet of people. I wore a glove on my left hand that I used to pull my shopping cart around with me. A nicely dressed woman looked at me. I was unsettled by her eyes and my inability to interpret what the look she gave meant. Was she saying, “Your efforts are in vain” or “You look ridiculous” or “We’re all in this together”?

At that third store I noticed a little old lady with a cast on her arm shopping with a young woman who was likely a caretaker, or perhaps a granddaughter.

Upon observing this duo I was immediately filled with sadness. I looked around the produce aisle and saw people of all ages wearing masks and gloves. Panic set in. I held back a deluge of tears. It occurred to me that a lot of people are going to die soon. It’s impossible to know who and it’s impossible to know exactly when, but life cycles are being cut short because of this pandemic. And what frightens me is the helplessness I feel because we are ill prepared for battle.

From what I am reading and seeing in the news, if the afore mentioned little lady were to show up at the hospital with COVID-19, it is unlikely that she will survive. If she becomes ill at the time of a surge, life-saving equipment will not be available to her.

In a previous blog post I mentioned the experiences of my grandparents and their escape from soviet Lithuania. Their enemies were aiming guns and throwing grenades. Now, our enemy is invisible. Tasteless. Odorless. If we were to cross a border, we would not be guaranteed immunity. Our safety will not be secured if we can just survive through April 30. The Corona Virus is very abstract.

I checked out of the third store with a cart full of food for my family. The duo I mentioned earlier had less than 20 items in their cart. I hope that the excursion doesn’t prove to have been a risky trip. As I walked to my car I saw a neighbor going into the store. This neighbor recently returned from a trip to Arizona. And it occurred to me, that they were not self-isolating for the suggested two weeks…

If the Corona Virus was an enemy we could slice and dice – we would. If we could hide from it under our beds or escape it by crossing a border – we would. But we can’t. We don’t know where it is, exactly. It does not announce itself until it is too late. While we are at relative peace, it does seem like we are at war because an enemy presence is very real. Even if we can’t see it.

I love words. Words swirl and dance around in my head. I have many deep thoughts. Some thoughts plague me. In order to release them, I have to assign the words. Once the words are strung together, I feel free again.

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