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)
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A tiny house in a tiny suburb of a city in a big country with big issues…
We have lived our tiny lives in our tiny home with big imaginations creating endless portraits of hope – painted and presented with pride. Now we have a tiny art gallery in our tiny conservatory where a tiny laughing dove struts boldly about collecting tiny sticks to build his tiny nest to raise his tiny chicks to fly freely into the big, blue sky.
Hope whispering to us that we will emerge from our tiny cocoon into a brave, new world… South Africa.
— Laurie Parsons (Cape Town, Western Cape, South Africa)
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We meet with the midwife on the phone.
She answers our questions and we have that standard-issue conversation: how strange these times are, how we look forward to gathering, how certain we are that this is for the best.
The midwife cannot take my blood pressure or listen for the baby’s heartbeat, so I am left to trust that my body and its tiny resident are working as they should. We felt quite clever when we chose a clinic within walking distance of home, didn’t we?
— Sandra Henderson (Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada)
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I’m definitely not blinking enough. I love teleporting into work meetings – not worrying about wielding legs and arms through space to sit in a new chair in a new room. But, alas, I’m not blinking enough. Captivated by screens from morning to evening, it’s easy to forget about my body. I feel nonphysical. Then, a cold dog nose nudges my elbow, sending my mouse cursor flying across the screen. I blink, finally. I look down at a fuzzy face and expecting eyes. We both have bodies after all, and it’s time to go outside and soak in the sun.
— Erica Bender (San Diego, California)
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She is healing; but she needs our help. Her body has been ravaged by bushfires so furious they left her hollow. Floods of emotion swept through her outer edges, and afterwards burnt remnants of the fires washed up onto the shores. I discovered these fragile pieces left to slowly weather away, as the passers-by are now kept at a distance. I tend to the pieces as if I can mend and heal each through repair and reverie. The pieces are renewed. They awaken the senses once more. Gaia is beginning again. We are all in stages of healing.
— Chloe Cassidy (Sydney, NSW, Australia)
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My cottage north of town borders wetlands protected by law (so far), and woods I love to walk. But Nature’s debris can trip you up. Especially if you focus on the canopies. (No crown shyness here. These trees don’t social distance.) Spent six days of quarantine clearing fallen branches. On the seventh, a storm threw down new ones. Like Sisyphus, I’ve got nothing but time. But hospitals are the new Hades. Health workers roll out one patient, Rona delivers two more. Me, I’m unemployed and high risk. All I can do is wander these woods. Five, six, pick up sticks.
— David Caudle (Putnam Valley, New York)
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I wander through the neighborhood park. As I wind down the path, I come across a picnic table wrapped in yellow tape looking like the remnant of a forgotten crime scene. Further down the way, a playground is similarly treated with a homicide-like barrier, warning children to stay away. Grim reminders of our current situation assault my sensibility. I wander down a bit further and I begin to hear the soft murmur of music. As I approach, I see a young man playing a clarinet in the park. Lovely. The pandemic brings unfamiliar scenes of sadness and joy.
— Wanda Kolomyjec (Phoenix, Arizona)
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