Honolulu, HI (March 22, 2020)
It seems not even a pandemic can cancel paradise.
I fill my car at the gas station, then pick up
my daughter’s Montelukast pills and asthma
inhaler at the pharmacy. I sanitize my hands after
every errand. When I return home, my wife and daughter
are playing dress-up. CNN echoing on the television
(“250,000 cases worldwide”). I put away the groceries
in the pantry and fridge (“10,000 deaths”). Freeze
enough meat to last a month (“bats and pangolins
butchered”). Disinfect handles and doorknobs
(“habitats destroyed”). My mom calls. Sore throat—
“Just allergies,” she reassures. “It’s cold in Sunnyvale.”
I ask about grandma, who’s 92 years old, dementia.
“Her care home is quarantined,” she answers. “If she
dies, we aren’t allowed to have a funeral service.” Why
is grieving not deemed our most essential business?
My daughter falls asleep on the couch: her body curls
like a flattened curve. My wife takes her temperature:
99.5 degrees. Then searches online for kindergarten
lesson plans. “Tomorrow,” my mom says. “I’ll deliver
milk to grandma. Wave to her through the window.” I
feel an ocean length apart (“rising like an invisible tide”).
How long can we shelter-in-place? How long can we
shelter each other in a world where our children can’t play
with friends at school, where our elders can’t breathe
without ventilators, where we can’t touch without fear?
How long can we shelter a planet?