If you are looking to get away from thinking about COVID-19, you may want to skip this post.
After weeks of trying—and failing—to turn my writing away from the reality we’re all living, I decided to confront it directly. Doing so has helped clear a space for focusing on other things. Is it a love letter? A paean? A warning? Or something else?
I’ve been waiting for you for so long. I always knew you would come. Yet somehow I failed to prepare for your arrival. Call it laziness, or hubris, or that all-to-human tendency to attend only to what seems most urgent in any moment. I don’t suppose you’ll be upset by my lack of preparation. Look at what an advantage it’s given you.
You and I seem like an odd couple: a human and a virus with potentially deadly effects. But we’re not so different. We both are after the survival of our species through reproduction. True, we go about it differently. Although looked at from another perspective, there are similarities in our relative positions to our hosts. You infect individual bodies. Humans infect the Earth, threatening the planet with the blind human need to reproduce and grow in much the same way you threaten a person.
Because of this, I’m trying to stay as far from you as possible. Nothing personal. As noted above, my biological goal is life. It’s a psychological goal for me as well, something you may not understand. Unlike me, you have no desire or intent, no anticipation or regret, no motivation or satisfaction.
I’m a bit in awe that you—a microscopic thing with no agenda but your own survival—have forced the seemingly all-powerful human race to do things inconceivable a few short months ago. You’ve paused conflicts. You’ve changed attitudes. You’ve awoken the sleepwalking. You’ve forced contemplation of mortality by people who gladly would ignore it till their dying breath. You’ve revealed fissures in society we have kept hidden beneath the scrim of comfort and money.
I am the most reluctant lover you’ll ever encounter. I’ve been waiting for you not with anticipation but with dread. I greet your arrival with a face mask, gloves, and spritzes of disinfectant. Other lovers have sought my heart metaphorically; I’ve been through love affairs and breakups, heartaches and disappointments, and none of it has killed me. You, though, seek my lungs. Not to enhance my happiness, but as a comfortable domicile where you can get down to your business of replication.`
How long will you stay? I wish you could tell me. Humans don’t do well with uncertainty. I’m worried. And weary. It’s not that I want to be an unwelcoming host. I just want to get back to what we humans have taken to calling “life as we knew it.” I want you to go back where you came from. Or find a place to replicate yourself that doesn’t involve turning human lung tissue to ground glass.
You’ll forgive me if I’d rather maintain social distance.
So I guess this is more of a “Dear John” letter.
I think we’re done. I’m sick of you, although you’ve been here for such a short time. I’m ready to move on—or back to—the boring rhythms of ordinary life. Let’s make this farewell and goodbye forever.
Don’t worry, though. You can be sure I’ll never forget you.
P.S. And if you want to drown your sorrows by reading, it’s not too late to get a free book or too from the CORONAVIRUS FREE BOOK BLAST. (Yes, someone has name such a thing after you.)
What would you say to the virus if it had ears to hear you with or eyes with which to read your words?
FEATURED IMAGE: John William Godward – The Love Letter, 1907 [Public domain in the U.S.]
I’d ask it if it really needed to be so cruel in order to get our attention. I think the hardest part is that people are dying alone. I can’t imagine losing my parents and not being able to be by their side. But perhaps that’s what it will take for us to slow down and come together.
Excellent question. No real answer other than to suggest to it that it was time for it to go away now. Point made, lessons learned. Move along. I hear Mars is nice this time of year.
Ah, if only it could listen…
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How very, clever! Nicely done.
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you are so creative, i love this piece! I too, am in “awe” if this whole thing. Keep up the most excellent writing, Audrey. Big fan.
Thank you! I wondered if it might be a bit over the top, but it came from my heart, so I went with it.
Audrey, well said! I’ve often expressed the explosion of human population as an “infestation.” As I say it, I usually remember the swarming ants I disturbed when I accidentally stepped on their nest. I think of a city, too full of us. But you’re so right: The virus has that instinct for survival all life forms share. With coronavirus, I continue think that our population is out of control. Nature has its way of restoring balance. I try to ask less of it. But do I, really?
We humans are both complicated and simple… driven both by our brains and our biology. It’s a conundrum, for sure.