Distancing

Simone Liang

I

Funny how reality can glitch in an instant,

disrupting your normal the same way

water-downed wifi broils your laptop

hotter than the afternoon sun on your neck

that wakes you from a night spent on the couch.

Through the awkward conference calls

and blurry screens—

courtesy of your now virtual 925—

your boss catches you rubbing the knots

out of your neck.

But you’re content because you only have to dress

from the waist

up.

 

II

Infection accelerates

while time moves agonizingly slow.

Life wasn’t meant to be a metronome

so you keep time in the movies you slept through

and the crossword puzzles you never finished.

You’re bored again so you start another

lap around the street

but as your masked neighbor approaches

something tells you maybe you should move six feet.

So maybe fear is the only thing that spreads faster than the virus.

Now you avoid the news

the same way your kid avoids online schooling;

tell you that it seems so pointless

when learning isn’t justified by arbitrary test scores.

Life feels so pointless

when you can’t do anything

to make it mean something.

 

III

Suddenly you find yourself

in the middle of a major historical event.

How come it doesn’t feel like you’re making history

when you ransack the barren shelves

for paper towels?

But you rather let your cracked hands air-dry anyway;

your paranoia has turned them into sandpaper.

Now a friend of a friend has it,

and the fear claws its way out of your throat.

Quick! Douse the house in bleach

and scrub your skin clean until you hit bone!

Never mistake a sense of normalcy for immunity.

 

IV

And so it drags on,

luring your sleep further into the day

and drawing out any semblance of sanity that remains.

Figures that once seemed larger than life

now appear smaller than the microbe ravaging

humanity;

they offer nothing more than empty words

and empty promises that ring hollow of empathy.

As if to deflect long-overdue denunciation,

they call grocery workers heroes.

But they don’t look like heroes—

they look like desperate people who need a better wage.

And just like that, the virus has become a magician.

With one swift whirl of a tablecloth,

the model minority myth crumbles

and Mother Earth revives.

 

V

You hate the way the guilt sticks to your

overgrown hair and clings onto

every complaint that spills out of your ungrateful mouth;

you fight for the last carton of eggs

when someone fights for their last breath.

Life becomes its very own paradox

when the fresh air becomes suffocating

because there’s no one to share it with.

You rather drink in the stuffy fervor of that

god awful restaurant that you haven’t stepped

foot into

in days

weeks

months

you hope it won’t be a year.

You’re too ashamed to admit

but sometimes

when it’s really late at night

you reach out

through the overheated mesh of pixels because

it’s the closest thing to the warmth

of human touch.

And that’s when you find yourself

distancing

from humanity

from reality

from the feeling of being invincible.

They say the worst of times brings out the best in people.

Imagine how wonderful the day will be

when we can all stand under the sun

together.

Simone Liang is seventeen years old and attends Southeast High School.

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