Tiny Coronavirus Stories: ‘Our breaths more dearly counted’

All of us connected in our not-knowing, in our common, drastically-uncommon plight. Our questions are many, many more than our answers, our breaths more dearly counted. The bright lights of my friends and family are further off, yet closer to my heart. Nature is my most constant familiar, my salvation.
Will we emerge from these strange days of disease joyfully opening our wings of freedom or will they be bound tightly to our bodies by fear or ordinance? Many of us will be much older then and many of us will have grown much younger. Merlins and baby butterflies.
— Sherilyn Wolter (Princeville, Hawaiʻi)

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Tiny Coronavirus Stories: ‘Living somewhere in the machine’

I’m depriving my skin of material correspondence and withdrawing the ability to contact other bodies. My skin feels the loss. I envy the machine who can survive without touch. I video-call constantly: uploading myself, my eyes present, moving mouth and megapixel skin. I see other bodies, but not like I know them. Flickering, stuttering, fading. I’m becoming gradually “other.” I’m getting to know my computational personality. I’m feeding my electronic body. It exists without feeling, without pain, grief, or humor. I’m living somewhere in the machine, both here and there, existing in between multiple borders, staring at the unknown.
— Molly McAndrews (Plymouth, Devon, UK)

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Tiny Coronavirus Stories: ‘What is the rain to give me permission to forget?’

Yesterday, I saw the heavens open up. I stood in the grass, arms uplifted, and marveled at the gentle teardrops streaking through the air. For a moment, I forgot who I was. For a moment, it was like I didn’t exist.
That night, as I sat in my room accompanied by the groaning sky, I thought I had been deceived. Amidst our crumbling world, an unfeeling moment feels like a betrayal. Today, impulse leans us toward hyperawareness — not apathy.
What is the rain to give me permission to forget? What is the rain to patch that hole?
— Claire Yuan (Woodbridge, Connecticut)

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Tiny Coronavirus Stories: ‘The unrelenting stillness of this time’

It’s summertime and the cat’s pink paws are turning black. Lentigo, says Google. The spots will spread over time. I wonder if the cat notices. These spots are as unsightly and asymmetrical as our most tender bruises: that thing I wish I’d never said, your secret I couldn’t keep. It is the unrelenting stillness of this time that is most unsettlingthere is, at last, nowhere to hide from the self. The comforts of modern life (yoga studios, trinket shops) dutifully obscured the truest things we will ever know: who we are, alone at night, our paw spots spreading insidiously, imperceptibly.
— Stephanie Nicolard (Los Angeles, California)

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Tiny Coronavirus Stories: ‘Observation may inoculate us’

Leah, psych major, says COVID is karma – mental health’s reprisal for its public stigma. Fear of sickness, fear of going out – they’re not so crazy now, are they?
Madeline, poet, says COVID is a media metaphor. Tech disconnect has sickened us socially. The cure lies in noticing. Hummingbird on wire still or delicate petal snow-fall. Slow down, look up, breathe, pay attention.
I think the answer lies in between these disparate views: perhaps COVID is a reminder that we cannot prevent all ills, but observation may inoculate us from the myopic view of the screen. Protect yourself.
— Kathleen Bergen (Santa Monica, California)

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Tiny Coronavirus Stories: ‘A wild peacock shows up’

Gold and green, with an iridescent blue head, nowadays a wild peacock shows up, infatuating me with full plume, feathers down, then helicopter leaps onto the rooftop, resting beside the front door, eating the proper birdseed – banana when I have it. He doesn’t care for apples. Absolute supermodel material.
In an organizational fete both cultural and digital, I discover photographs of his visit last autumn. Could explain why housecats yowling is reserved for raccoons on the deck.
The unnamed peacock’s telling begins: Strawberry blonde, midlife, nowadays a friendly human shows up, seems she was a workaholic, now birdfeeder slash photographer.
— Eileen E. Schmitz (Sequim, Washington)

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Tiny Coronavirus Stories: ‘That release will be harder’

An “empty nester” no more, my twins back home. I’ve gotten good at crises. Facing fears and unknowns. My children just four when their dad was murdered in the 9/11 attacks.
This plight is tougher. They should be out socializing, working, finding more of themselves. It’s a pandemic, where else should they be? Precious time back for us three. Re-bonding. My privilege to show up, yet this crisis is really testing my proclivity to keep my energy upbeat.
Playing together each day, till I can resend them into the world. Again. That release will be harder than the first time.
— Lisa Paterson (Hudson Valley, New York)

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Tiny Coronavirus Stories: ‘The virus of greed persists’

Trumpish billionaires are especially thriving in quarantine. How?
The richest New York City billionaire landlord does it through wanton disregard. Disregards a court order to fix chronic leaks until the ceiling collapses. Catastrophic flooding destroys a sweet lady’s apartment. She loses belongings, furnishings, and her thirty-plus-year rent-stabilized home.
Sickened from mold, immune compromised, homeless for over two years, with zero compensation from the billionaires, she’s vulnerable, quarantined in yet another friend’s house.
Papers arrive! Settlement? Finally? No, billionaire landlord’s still suing for thousands of dollars in “back rent” – for when she was homeless.
The Virus of Greed persists. Superspreader President, no vaccine.
— Keni Fine (Astoria, New York)

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Tiny Coronavirus Stories: ‘I touch nothing; is nothing enough?’

I know it’s for the best but I wonder when it’ll end
I fear I like this better but I wonder: is loneliness worse in a crowd
I say I’m okay and I wonder if they’re lying too
I hear politicians but I wonder what’s true
I touch nothing; is nothing enough?
I know I care; am I a counterfeit angel?
I hear people feel alone but isn’t that what they always feel?
I see my opponent; how can I defeat them?
I touch when I’m wanted, but I wonder: can I reach out first
I love and I wonder
— Anna, Kaatje, Sebastien, Jaya, Paige, and Sophie, ages 13 to 16
(Ottawa, Ontario, Canada)

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Tiny Coronavirus Stories: ‘Zoom panopticon’

Second semester never started in Shanghai. My MA hangs on a virtual thread, my classmates and me as little strings connected to my instructor’s Zoom panopticon, or perhaps it’s not theirs to be in charge of. I wasn’t supposed to move to Salem yet, but here I am, with my loving partner, and still we long for our Iowa homes, his still there and mine long gone. Maybe I just want my mom. My belongings are separated by an ocean. There is no crossing it anymore; the US has made sure of that. Bad news, online school: the only constants.
— Alyssa Cokinis (Salem, Oregon)

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