Continued from The Virus: Week Four
The next day was April 2. There are now over 1,000,000 reported global cases of it. At least 5800 people in the United States are dead from it. I stay home all day and buy books from shuttered independent bookstores, and check in with many friends and loved ones. My cousin tells us that she’s been ill and self-quarantine from her family for twelve days and just got tested. They say she won’t have the results for 5-15 days. We are hiding and waiting.
The following day I started making a garden. We’re cutting up shirts and learning how to sew face masks.
The day after that there are 7000 dead in the United States. Two Ospreys fly overhead. There are no sewing machines at JOANN. We make a necessary trip to Target for supplies. The store is mostly empty, but for the first time I’m in full-on panic as people drift through each other’s exhalations. Every minute here is agony. We are seeing many more homemade masks, since there haven’t been any masks to buy in any store for over a month. There is no toilet paper, no Tylenol. I feel like this is the day I’m going to catch it; I can’t escape it. My wife is sewing masks all night for her staff, since the employer hasn’t supplied them with any.
The next day marks a month since I first heard the people joking about water-hoarding and hysteria at the sushi place. We have our maks on and can barely catch our breath. Half the people around are wearing masks or bandanas. People suddenly seem cautious. We wait in a socially distanced line outside the fabric store in hopes of getting a sewing machine so that we can make masks for ourselves and others. A person in the line says: “Every week they tell us, ‘The next two weeks are critical.'” “Thank you for calling JOANN we’re open until three today,” the person working at the store says in one breath to the person on the phone, She will say this forty more times. The fabric store worker tells another caller that the calicos and the novelty prints are becoming really popular for everyone making masks right now. Most people in line never get into the store. My wife coughs three times, by my count; I cough once. We are still learning how to make masks for ourselves, loved ones, and my students. Almost 10,000 US dead today. Gas is down to $2.69 a gallon.
The next day (April 6) I sneezed twice. Ambulance sirens could be heard. Go to try to buy a thermometer for the third time but the drugstore is still out of them. Smoke starts pouring out of the car. The radiator is cracked. The parts delivery worker at the auto shop is asked how things are going. “Brutal,” he says. “Brutal.” They made $170 yesterday; they would usually clear $5000 to $7000. Of their twenty-five employees, they are already down to two. He finds out I’m a teacher: “You all should get an award. An award!” The mechanic drives me home in torrential rain. Spent half an hour trying to sweep rising pools of water away from the back door; the rain will not stop. The prime minister of the United Kingdom is in intensive care with it. There is a tiny break in the rain. I go for a walk. The sidewalks are crawling with snails.
By the next day, the number of people I know who know people with it or who are already dead from it is growing. Either they know many more people than I do or we have somehow been spared the worst, or at least have been spared the worst this week. But we’ve made it one more week without a loved one of our own contracting it or dying of it. This is the first miserable measure of everything now. John Prine loses his battle with it, and he dies. I hear Kate Tempest’s “People’s Faces” again, but this time it’s on a Facebook virus-support commercial, playing on TV over scenes of incredible loss, suffering, sorrow, and strength. At the bank, they finally give my wife a handful of masks for all the essential workers, but at this stage she has already spent many hours making masks by hand for all of them. My head hurts. Her head hurts. When I rub her head it feels warmer than it should. After the broken heater and the broken water main valve, this new radiator will cost us another $900.
By Wednesday, April 8, my cousin’s virus test results comes back negative. We are out of milk and eggs and almost out of bread but I don’t dare go to the store; I don’t go anywhere. The rain has finally let up. Every day the president is doing what this president always does on TV: telling lies. I’ll be taking homemade masks to students in a few days, if we can get these others sewed correctly first. I risk a walk; the air outside is cool, crisp, and clean.