A Letter to COVID-19
Elegy for the End of the World
Elegy for the End of the World
December 22, 2012
Now no wind, and the earth is sprinkled with drizzle,
And soon, the blizzard of stars will go quiet.
And soon, soon to sleep, under the earth, all of us,
Us who alive on earth don’t let us sleep.
There are days when we wish the world would have ended: torn
apart by wars or by men driven mad by the rumor of wars or
by stars collapsing under their own weight and the weight
of all of us disappearing too under the pressure of some not
so distant, undetected black hole, our own collapse into nothing
and it is for nothing that we waited throughout the night, that
we watched the sky for comets trailing too close to the atmosphere,
or solar flares, and last night with no crack in the firmament, we would
have settled for the quake of the earth in place of our own hands’
trembling, and would have welcomed beneath us, the continents’
crumbled remains, for we are already inconsolable, already
we have seen the beginnings of sorrows, and have understood
since we breathed our first breath of life, our lives wouldn’t last,
yet our lives remain, and the world doesn’t end but persists
perpetually without us. Last week, the sun was out, and in the cold
past locked storefronts, we walked and waited in the stillness
for someone to return, and in the distance, we heard the wailing
of ambulances, their cries, and then, silence as they drove
past, unhurried, empty, and this week, in the silence, empty, wonder
what else but our love can bind us and what else can break us.
I am falling down a rabbit hole.
Like Alice did.
I do not know what lies ahead. I am scared. It is dark.
I do not know what can be done.
My throat is raw and my eyes cannot close at the thought of the unknown.
My horror is suffocating. I just want peace and rest.
I want to sleep until the spirals in my head stop.
I want to sleep like Aurora. A hundred years, maybe more. I want to sleep until the ravens stop clawing and crowing at my door.
I want to sleep until they go to rest with Edgar Allen Poe.
I want to sleep to forget how death is consuming me.
I want to sleep until September ends. And maybe the death count will end. And perhaps I can see my friends.
Six months of staring at the white walls in my house.
Nearly, every mirror is shattered. I’ve gotten tired of staring at my reflection.
I hate her! I keep picking her apart until there’s nothing left.
And then maybe when she fades away, I will too.
Until then, I am stuck with broken mirrors that match my mind.
Spiraling into anger and hatred as the days pass by! My therapist says that I have depression. Perhaps, it’s anger turned inwards. It feels as though it is murdering my soul!
I was so angry at the world so I cannot imagine the impact of damage upon my soul!
Still, I spend every day spiraling as the clock ticks away the seconds ever so slow.
There’s nothing left for me to do but sleep. I want a clear mind and inner peace, but all I can do is sleep into the spirals in my mind – stop! … there is no room in here for me anymore…
I am claustrophobic.
Laurence C. Schwartz
Virtual Transcendence Through a Liquid Bubble
New York City, AC, After Covid
Corporal John A. Servalli Playground is sandwiched between Horatio Street on its southern side and cobblestoned Gansevoort Street on its northern side. To the west is Hudson Street. Fenced on all sides, the playground’s western end is lined by six evenly spaced straight-backed green benches. Its north-eastern corner begins with a green picnic table that could comfortably seat six adults or eight children, followed by three more green benches. Then there is a ten-foot wide entrance that opens to what I shall call a foyer to the playground’s interior. The foyer contains a brick outhouse with respective bathrooms for both sexes, an elevated rubber-matted walkway that extends to twinned slides, a row of swings, followed by a fenced basketball court with rimless backboards. You’ll see some four more rimless backboards on the main playground’s southern and northern ends. On three of its four ends stand trees that, even though diminutive in both trunk and stature to their country brethren, lend a welcomed if asymmetrical enclosure to the below proceedings. And what proceedings to behold! Dogs of various breeds gladly retrieve tennis balls for their expectant masters. Toddlers kick weightless balls while they still master the placing of one foot after the other. Balls are volleyed over imaginary nets. Balletic roller-skaters will ply their skills as if performing on ice to a recording of Tchaikovsky’s “Swan Lake.” You see children on scooters, children bicycling, little boys squirting one another with water-zap bazookas. Occasionally you see little girls blowing liquid bubbles.
I sit in the playground almost daily. I find its frolic and general good nature a welcome respite to the sheer madness the world has fallen to. But can I take my utopic sanctuary one step further?
I purchased a jar of liquid bubbles. I entered the playground on a Friday evening at six, its peak hour and day. I sat down on a bench. On the other end of the bench sat a sleeping old man, snoring through his mask. I took my plastic bottle of liquid bubbles from my tote and uncapped it. I took out the wand, held it in front of my mouth, and blew. The bubble trailed off and silently popped. Then I espied a bone-thin little black girl walking toward me. She wore a pink two-piece bathing suit, her head topped by four skinny dreads. I avoided eye contact, lest it prevent her from continuing in my direction. I blew another liquid bubble, but this time, I arched my neck and held the wand aloft. I followed the bubble’s ascent toward the late afternoon summer sky. Sunlight speckled the bubble’s surface. As I continued blowing liquid bubbles, I realized I had attracted a group of children, and behind them, two adults. After my current bubble popped, I gave a quick look-over at my audience. There were eight children; a pair of female Asian twins no more than three, two plump & pigtailed Hispanic girls around six, an Indian little boy somewhere around eight, a red-headed child around ten whose sex I couldn’t quite determine, the little bone-thin black girl with skinny dreads. Standing somewhat apart from the others was the oldest in the group; a wiry and bare-chested pre-pubescent lad whose blonde hair fell to his shoulders, endowing him with a defiant if unintentional androgyny. He was the only one of the bunch who smiled. I kept blowing bubbles. The old man with whom I shared the bench stopped snoring but remained asleep. I started perfecting my bubble blowing. If you hold the wand a few inches from your mouth and simply exhale a concentrated breath-stream rather than crudely blow, the bubbles expand and could pass for translucent mini-globes sailing on air. They could also pass for hollow spacecrafts travelling to distant frontiers in far off galaxies. I took flight with my imagination and placed myself in one of those spacecrafts. Now that I was inside, I was floating as my spacecraft slowly continued its ascent. I looked down at the group of children who had assembled ‘round me. I waved at them and they all waved back. They all looked concerned for me. But why should they have been? I was headed for an alternative and oh so simpler an existence on an unknown planet inhabited by a race of being alien to Man’s foibles. And here on this unknown planet, there would be no adults, but only children who would expire before learning or projecting any of Man’s baser qualities. Life would begin through a Divine Intervention, like a bolt of lightening striking a blade of grass in the dark of night. Human sexuality has no place here, for children will peacefully expire before learning of their sexuality. Melanin could exist but the children will never become aware of its presence nor allow it to shadow their perceptions of others. There will be no greed, evil, envy, no hatred. There will be no wars because the human qualities that motivate them are not to be felt here. How these children live and what they subsist on will be known once I arrive. But let it be said that while I’m on my journey in orbit, I will myself transform to a child so that when I finally arrive, I will not upset the natural order that is superior to the one I have left. A wild dream sayest thou? But why not, when the world’s backward state-of-affairs no man or woman could have imagined even in their wildest of dreams? When official governance and leadership have become a sham? When suspicion, distrust, enmity, prejudice, terror, antagonism, and unspoken hostility have all reared their ugly heads on a local, national, international—yea—on a pandemic scale! We now inhabit the sickest of all possible worlds in both its literal and figurative sense. I open a newspaper and its headlines prove that Mankind has overstayed his welcome and is ripe for its Manmade extinction. We live in a world where hatred had become the rule rather than the exception.
Covid-19 is merely a symptom of our greater systematic ineptitudes. I question the race I belong to. But like most members, I stubbornly persist in the notion of survival and will try to make the most of my allotted time. And in the meanwhile, I choose to take a flight of fancy in a liquid bubble-cum-spacecraft to an unknown planet inhabited by only innocent children, I’m sure you will grant me allowance. And if there is the slightest good to emerge from this feverish nightmare that has the world by its balls, it shall be the word ‘virus’ recapturing its original application to human beings. And could that in itself begin a rebirth of our lost humanity?
New York City, 2020
Memories of COVID
I found out that my grandmother had lung cancer in the beginning of March 2020. A year ago she had stopped smoking and over the summer she had gone to physical therapy for her breathing. Things had been looking up. And then one smudge on a CAT scan changed everything. I’m glad to say that she is still with us, and on September 25th she turned eighty-two years old. But something changed with that diagnosis; it brought death that much closer, like it was waiting just outside the window.
My grandmother started radiation therapy during the first weeks of quarantine. Everything was closed except for the few places that couldn’t shut down no matter what. Cancer treatment was one of those things. COVID 19 was another looming threat, death had been handed another dice in the roll of fate.
We were careful from the beginning; I had been staying apart from my family for the summer and I suddenly couldn’t see them. It was like a rope that had always kept us connected had been severed and I just had to accept it. I remember staring up at the hill that led back towards my house wishing I could just walk home. But It was safer for everyone if I stayed away, especially for my grandma, but also for me.
I’ve had a chronic illness for nearly eight years now. My sickness seemed to have a gravitational pull because more illnesses started to pile on. I was on antibiotics for an extended period of time, and I still managed to get an ear infection. So I wasn’t in as much danger as my grandmother, but I certainly wasn’t as safe as the average twenty-two year old.
When quarantine started, I was nervous, but I wasn’t completely scared. I believed that I would survive the virus if I caught it despite my health issues. Of course, no one knows anything for certain, but it is a lot more comforting to be positive about it. The moment I was truly frightened was when I learned about peoples’ experiences after they had COVID. The virus ran through their bodies and left them changed forever. I had too many chronic illnesses already. They piled on top of my body and weighed me down, and I worked every day to keep that mound from collapsing on top of me. One more chronic illness and the balance would shift, and everything could come crashing down. I had to keep myself safe for my own sake and for everyone else’s. Nothing really changed because of that realization, because I had always treated the virus with the seriousness it deserved. But I started to see the actions of other people a little differently. Their choices could forever impact my life and so many others. Suddenly everyone around me had more power over my body just by existing. It was like a ghost that hung over everyone’s head. Someone more reckless than I could take my agency away.
But in the end, everyone is just trying to get by. There isn’t ill will in people’s hearts, and I am glad that I live in a state that takes the situation very seriously. I am lucky because my mother who works as a nurse is healthy and my grandmother still laughs with me every day. This is a time of tough choices, where everyone has to weigh the decision between living freely and staying alive. When a person makes that choice, they don’t just choose it for themselves but for everyone who interacts with them. The world has changed so much in a brief period of time. I look at people and have to calculate how to stay out of their way in order to be safe, when a year ago I would have just passed them by. This world has become more conscious about the good and the bad, and though life is challenging at the moment, it is not for forever. In the meantime, I try to focus on the little things and be grateful for everything I can, because one day this will all be just a memory. But for now, it’s my life.