Reader-submitted stories of the COVID-19 pandemic, in no more than 100 words. Read past stories here. Submit your own here.
A Foreign Virus
In these days of solitude, I remember why I no longer play my Baby Taylor and sing Psalms to the Lord, why I no longer sit in pews on Sundays and absorb the proclamations of charismatic men, why, now, I stare at my phone, at a Facebook post from a pastor I once admired, and war with myself. Should I say my Chinese wife owes him no apologies? Is it enough that people’s hearts have broken for those of his ilk to choose another adjective? “The virus is from there!” they’d say. And where it’s from is not here.
— Nathaniel Cayanan (West Covina, California)
* * *
A Joyful, Selfish Response
It’s pouring. I wander, watching the torrent soak boxes carrying student valuables. Puddles coalesce. Students hug each other. They butcher pop tunes. Music reverberates from several dorms. Beer cans and wine bottles clog trash bins. “A far cry from social distancing,” I tell myself.
After avoiding handshakes and giving virtual hugs or elbow-bumps to favorite professors and not-so-close friends, I find someone I’ve missed dearly. We hug and catch up over dinner. I briefly think to myself, “how many people can’t hug loved ones because of carelessness?” We hug again and say goodbye. Letting go is hard.
— David Vejar (Tustin, California)
* * *
In Florence, A New Friend
For two days we walk the empty streets. Only permitted to view David’s replica, not the museum he guards.
A late dinner.
The full moon behind her as she speaks in Italian.
“He will take us to Rome before the lockdown tomorrow.”
We pack the art history books. I read her tarot cards as we wait for our future.
Tuscany fades away as we are lulled to sleep by the car, our knees touching each other, burning and tingling.
In Rome, I look into her eyes, then she disappears behind a door, which David guards and I cannot enter.
— Devi (Cascade Mountains, Washington)
* * *
“Crisis” in Chinese is written with not one, but two characters: danger, followed by opportunity.
Danger is everywhere. But what about opportunity? Have you noticed that our leaders are now capable of making change overnight? Transportation in Spain has been reduced by fifty percent. China’s pollution has dropped by a quarter. People are buying local and consuming less. Are these not the very behaviors that must occur to mitigate the environmental crisis?
A month ago, we were struggling to discuss the changes needed to avoid two-degree warming. Today, we are witnessing just how quickly agreements can be made.
— Camille Hanson (Madrid, Spain)
* * *
The wind-driven snow has piled up all month into towering drifts with knife-edge crests. There is a white bird, a Rjúpa, a ptarmigan in winter dress. She nestles down in the lee of the drift just below the crest to ride out the storm. Against the snow her eye and beak make tiny black marks. She stays there for hours. She is patient, calm, enduring, safe, well-equipped by nature to survive the storm. I bring this memory forth, and I feel calmer, more able. Nature is generous with her gifts.
— Andrea Krupp (Pennsylvania)
This series is edited by Thomas Peterson. One of the editors of Artists & Climate Change, he is also a theatre director and researcher whose work focuses on the climate crisis.
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