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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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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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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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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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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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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On the final day courthouses were open I became legally divorced for the first time. Next week marks the one year anniversary of my then-new husband’s shocking departure.
Relying more on bubble wrap than good sense, I packed up boxes of his pans, clothing, his late wife’s ceramics. He says I broke nothing.
I’ve reorganized closets for one, bookshelves by theme, with no sweet mementos of us.
Yesterday I found six kitchen bowls, his, then texted him a photo. No ransom, I’ll deliver.
High road weary from giving, returning, and cheer. He says he loves me; this misery loves isolation.
— Eileen E. Schmitz (Sequim, Washington)
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I was exiting Central Park after an afternoon walk with Pumpkin The Punk Pup. As the new normal, I was wearing a bandana to cover my nose and mouth. I fancy myself a bandit. Just as we were about to leave, a woman, a complete stranger, stopped me and said, “I can see by your eyes that you have a beautiful face.” What a gift! For a moment I actually felt beautiful.
— Valerie Cihylik (New York, New York)
read more Tiny Coronavirus Stories: ‘I can see by your eyes’