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Reflections From the End (of the World)

No one was breathing on the metro this morning.

Packed in like sardines and barely an inhale could be heard.

Tight-lipped, faces down.

Let’s just make it off this train unscathed, everyone’s faces said.

When I walked on, there was a banana lying on the ground, bright yellow and perfect, a moment away from meeting the bottom of someone’s foot and creating a mushy problem for many train passengers to come.

I bent down and picked it up.

“Did anyone drop a banana?” I asked to the silent audience of 100.

Despite themselves, smiles.

At the grocery store, people had lost their usual pushy manner.

Keeping a careful distance, we maneuvered around each other’s carts, reaching for the last items on already bare shelves.

There was a young black boy standing in an empty aisle. His dark skin stood out from the other customers in the shop. In the sea of whiteness that consumes this neighborhood, the only black faces you typically see are those that stand behind the check-out counters or set up tents outside on the sidewalk.

(Not fair, but real.)

I watched as that young boy gazed at the empty shelf where the toilet paper once was.

There was a little girl next to him, his sister I would guess. Maybe seven years old, she was pushing a cart that was twice her size.

The boy stood and looked.

He glanced down at a list written on a scrap piece of paper, and then back at the abyss of metal; an empty stretch of selfishness.

Finally, he shook his young head and he walked on.

I happened to see as the young boy and his sister pushed their cart out of the store.

His face was stoney. Far too grave for a boy his age.

I wondered who he had to go home to. I wondered who had sent these young kids off on their own and why.

I wondered how they’d react when he told them he hadn’t been able to get the toilet paper.

I kept thinking about my hands today. About how many times I had touched a surface that others had touched. How many times my fingertips went up to my cheek to brush away a hair, or to rub at my eyes.

Strange times – when you’re scared of your own hands.

I tried to smile at people today, too. There's part of me that just wants to reach out with love to everyone around me.

Emotional closeness in an age of social distance.

Touching is taboo, so for now a smile will have to do.

I had just started a new class at a university in the city.

When I arrived on the first day we played a game called “Where do you stand?”

They put us in a line and they asked us either/or questions. We could move anywhere on the spectrum between the two extremes, which were signified by the two walls at either end of the room.

“Thin crust pizza or deep dish?” they asked, and we spread out.

When it was my turn to ask a question, I worried it would be too obvious, or too bold.

(These were the early days still.)

“Go to this side of the room if you feel scared,” I said and gestured to my left. “Go to this side if you feel like there’s nothing to worry about,” I said, gesturing to my right.

I watched as the people began to move.

Most of them stayed huddled somewhere around the middle, but on the furthest edge of the group, towards the left wall I saw an elderly man shifting back and forth on his feet.

I wanted to tell him that I felt scared too.

But I knew our fear was different.

I was fearing disruption, boredom, cancelled plans and disappointment.

I can’t tell you what he was fearing, but I felt an unshakeable sadness seeing him there.

An island of vulnerability, in a sea of strong bodies.

My office closed for six weeks.

As we packed up our desks, and grabbed our monitors, preparing to create new workstations in our homes, I felt like I was watching the opening scene in a dystopian film.

Grab your supplies, you don’t know when you’ll be back.

We said goodbye to one another and bumped each other’s elbows.

“Good luck out there,” we said.

On Friday morning, I woke up at 5:40am, as I usually do. I drank my cup of coffee, as I usually do. And I put on my yoga pants, as I usually do. Walking to the yoga studio, the same few blocks I walk every week, I wondered if anyone would join me in class that morning.

The disease had been far away, but it was drawing nearer.

To my surprise, many of them showed.

“I’m so glad you’re open right now,” a woman said to me with a hint of desperation in her voice.

“I’m glad, too,” I said to her.

In my heart, I knew it couldn’t last for long. A few more days, a week, maybe.

At the end of class, another woman came up to me.

“Thank you,” she said with a smile, as she squirted hand sanitizer into her palms, “that really helped.”

If the world needs anything right now, it needs yoga. I thought.

All weekend I felt torn. Torn between enjoying myself and wondering if that was okay.

We went out to the park and we stayed away from others, but they were around.

Were we soaking in our last moments of freedom, or, perhaps, just adding to our shared doom?

The world feels different now, and in my heart I believe there's no going back.

We're leaving one world behind us.

Let's just hope that the next world is a good one.

I guess you could say I’ve never felt more human.

For the first time in my life, I feel undeniably connected to every single other person.

And despite everything else, that’s the thought that keeps cutting through.

We’re all in this together.

How darkly beautiful.


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