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The Virus: Week Twenty

Continued from The Virus: Week Nineteen

The day after we watched all the Karens screaming at their fellow Americans about masks, one of my most diligent students, a health care worker, informs me that she had contracted the virus weeks ago while helping patients who had contracted the virus; and now, a day before the last writing assignment of the semester, her illness has taken a turn for the worse, and she says she does not have the strength to finish her last essay on The Iliad, an ancient poem starring many angry warring men, as well as Athena. The day after that my wife, who has been suffering chronic headaches and fevers and other ailments as an essential worker dealing with the public these past twenty weeks, describes the company’s plans to “fully reopen” next week, as cases are climbing in the state and around the country. The next morning we awoke to the news that John Lewis had died. The day after that I tried to just stay home and not think about any of these things for a few hours so that I could grade everyone’s papers on war, hubris, arrogance, violence, death, shared grief, and Athena. By this time the news had been starting to come out of Portland showing unidentified federal troops in glasses, masks, and camo hauling away protestors in unmarked cars. The day after that, one of the trending topics on Twitter was #NakedAthena, a woman wearing only a beanie and a protective mask who was standing in front of the lines of police clogging the streets of Portland as an act of peaceful protest. Elsewhere, a lifelong anti-feminist disguised as a delivery worker went to the house of a judge and killed her son and wounded her husband before killing himself. That same day I saw a mother with her two-year-old son in his stroller outside the nearby Starbucks. She was staring at her phone while her son looked at the window displays. “Mommy what’s the sign say? Mommy what’s the sign say? “Mommy what’s the sign say?” he asked; and she put her phone down and began to read aloud to him all of the detailed public health guidelines that Starbucks was employing to keep us safe. On the following day Trump restarted the thing he calls his “virus briefings,” and he was telling the American people in late July that his administration is in the process of developing a plan, and then he wished the alleged sex trafficker friend of his well in her upcoming criminal proceedings. My wife’s workplace has now returned to what the company refers to as “normal operations.” Just one day after this return to normal, the state that we live and work in became the state with more cases of the virus than any other state in the union, leaving New York in the dust. Meanwhile I am reading Laszlo Krasznahorkai’s Baron Wenckheim’s Homecoming and I stumble across the moment where the professor of mosses is talking about the nature of God and the universe and infinitude, and in the middle of his address he notes that there exists a component part of reality which is outside of reality, that in the Beginning of the Beginning there appeared God and that which is godly, and that, the professor says, is the only virus, ‘the only fatal and actual virus, the only virus that genuinely prods all of humanity into an incurable disease, from which really–but really and truly–we will never be able to free ourselves.’ I can only nod in agreement.

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