The acrid air stings as I breathe in through the double layered stylish face mask. My breathing becomes forced and my glasses steam as I fumble to pull the mask away from my nose for a quick breath of not so fresh air. I franticly check the store’s signaling cement floors for signs and arrows directing me as to the direction to shop the aisles as well as where I must stand behind the silent masked body in front of me as we wait for the plexiglass enclosed masked, gloved cashier at check-out. There are fires here in California forcing another cautionary health concern added to the ever-present Corona virus, COVID-19. My granddaughter calls it The Rona. Our lives are now occupied with statistical numbers related to sickness, death, unemployment, social distancing, handwashing, and masks. And for me, perhaps worse of all, being denied the smiles offered as secret kisses thrown through space, absorbed by waiting eyes, gently engaging the reactionary impulse of a smile in return. And oh, the hugs; that sharing of touch that is evidence of aliveness indicating the benevolence of humanity. These shared precious gifts are now hidden beneath cloths of different colors and social distancing. And when the elusive smile is not hidden or a stranger invades the closely guarded personal space, the seen lips and the mortal body in its revelation and closeness now compromises spatial privilege causing a creeping anxiety into the psyche of the cloth wearers and distance keepers sometimes leading to physical altercations.
My eighteen-month-old great granddaughter only enjoyed her Baby-Gym visits until her first birthday in January. Her party at the gym was the last past-normal social gathering we experienced as a family. How will future-normal society create itself? Who knows the power of The Rona and its creepy insinuation into our bodies and our lives? As I contemplate the future, if this is the new reality and not a sci-fi dream, and I am blessed with living another healthy twenty years, I will tell her bedtime stories of the hugs and smiles offered from strangers that once was an everyday experience in life here on earth.
The Rona affects every instance of our living. In the months since its naming, there have been deaths unrelated to C-19 with no proper funeral or memorial service. The sicknesses related and unrelated to the virus causing senior care facility visits to be cancelled leaving our elders dependent on the kindness of strangers as family as well as frantic concern regarding hospital visits for those of any age regarding underlying health conditions. A restaurant outing is like visiting another planet with persons greeting you in masks, rubber gloves, eye protected helmets and the ever-present bottle of disinfectant spray. Am I dreaming a sci-fi nightmare or is 2020 the real unlucky number out pacing 13 and 666?