The guy at the exit is talking to me but I don’t realize it at first, his voice is drowned out by the sound of rain beating down hard on the windows of the neighborhood grocery store where I choose self checkout because it’s faster and so I could avoid small talk like this.
“Well, what do you think? Do you think they’ll close schools again?”
The concerned looking General Manager asks twice for my prediction before I know I’m meant to respond. I hate this kind of question because I truly have no idea how to answer, and I am just trying paying for some bananas after Target forgot to include them in my curbside pickup order.
“I’m not sure, why do you ask?” I causally turn the question back on the man who I register has something to say as he shifts his weight from foot to foot and folds his arms across his uniform apron, tied like a gesture around his rotund midsection. I seem to remember this guy being very jolly and quite helpful in the Before Times; even behind his mask I can make out the ruddy cheeks and those blue eyes that give him a much younger appearance, so much that he now looks to me like a wide-eyed white-haired little boy. And he’s worried.
“Well they’re finding new cases of the variant every day, even here in Minnesota, and it’s the strain of covid that gets little kids sick, even little kids…highly contagious,” he continues, “even with masks…there are even more cases of kids contracting it in Michigan….and now they’re testing the vaccine on kids as young as 6 months old…they’re getting sick so young…”
I stop listening as a scream curdles in my throat, threatening to release, and it’s taking all my energy to suppress it. On the outside I smile and nod, raising my sympathetic listening eyebrows; on the inside I am stewing.
We were just out of the dark, weren’t we? I have just made plans to host an outdoor social hour with GirlCreative next month! We only just started letting Lola’s friends come into our bubble again. There are a million hoops a person has to hop through to get a vaccine here in Minnesota, but we got an appointment and Christian & I will be jabbed tomorrow over our lunch hour at a mosque ninety minutes away. Things have been looking up!
And I have been smugly calculating that within the next 4 months, life could very well resemble a kind of pre-2020 normal. But are any predictions possible, good or bad, in the midst of a pandemic?
All of these words I want to hurl at the well-meaning manager who’s just trying to make small talk with me. But instead I smile behind my mask and say the first thing that comes to mind:
“Just when you think there’s a light at the end of the tunnel,” I walk away shaking my head, but I keep the second part to myself:
You realize it’s a freight train.
Note: This might not be my most encouraging entry, but it’s where I’m at right now — looking to God to be the light in my life, since the one at the end of the tunnel can’t be trusted not to turn into a catastrophic freight train! I want this online home for my words to be a space where I can be honest and real about what I’m going through; thank you for reading my writing.