I thought February was bad. March blew in the novel coronavirus. From the east and the west and up through the middle of the country, it landed, disseminated, and killed. I’m reminded of the language used to describe immigrants to the US at the turn of the 19th/20th/ century: invading hordes, the dregs of humanity, vermin washed up on our shores. Cruel language that marked immigrants as less than those already here, those entitled to this place, those privileged to receive America’s bounty.
Yesterday, I ventured out to Costco. While waiting in line to get in, a family of young adults jostled behind and around me. They stood too close–not even 2 feet away from me. I kept moving either closer to the person in front of me or to the side in order to create space. I as soon as I did, they moved closer. I tucked my chin into my vest and fumed. Said nothing, did nothing, but silently berated them. Once in the store, we spread out. Their group dispersed. As I shopped I’d see them in pairs then as a group–their movements like birds leaving a nest: they’d fly away, tentatively a first, not going very far, then venturing further out, but always returning. Young people still doing what they do, bumping through their world, touching, laughing, oblivious to the hushed fearful isolated older people around them.
Why didn’t I ask them to move away from me? I thought “I shouldn’t have to say anything, they should know.” But maybe I didn’t want to scare them, or make them angry, or reinforce the stereotype now playing out of the elderly who are scared of everything. Or maybe I simply had no energy to speak, teach, engage. I’m exhausted.