I launched into the tired refrain: I wasn’t so much worried for myself. It was the old, the sick, the unfortunates whose compromised immune systems might face a cruel battle—it was their fate that set me on edge, it was them I was terrified of infecting.
My friend nodded, just as the others had nodded all week, secure in their stable incomes and good health plans. But then she held up a finger, requested a pause; her child was calling from another room. She reappeared in the screen after the question had been answered, the fire put out. I saw the same face, the same smile, the same person I had been talking to just seconds ago. But there it was, the piercing revelation: we were not young anymore, not numbered among the twenty-somethings wandering blithely through grocery aisles, the thirty-year-olds strolling with their dogs in empty parks. True, we were not elderly. And yet, here we were, somewhere between low risk and the cusp of danger, floating in a middle age that had never until then seemed so very, very middle, so perilously undefined. We were growing into something slower moving, something excluded from the social center. We were not who we’d always thought we were; not the co-eds we had always seen when we sat down before each other.
Had it taken a plague to make us grasp it—to sweep away the smokescreen of habit, of diversion, that had let us drift along not obliged to confront our own lined faces?
What else, I’ve begun to wonder, will this thing reveal before it’s done with us—what other glaring realities will we be shamed into seeing? Forced into the shelter of our own company, what haven’t we yet perceived right in front of our dumb, distracted eyes?
Katy Scrogin is a Chicago-based writer, editor, and translator so in love with every type of well-turned phrase, she can't seem to pick a single genre as her favorite. Her most recent work is featured in Sobotka Literary Magazine, The Book Smuggler's Den, and The Bookends Review. She can also be found at katyscrogin.wordpress.com.