I just slathered my hands with cucumber-melon flavored hand sanitizer
and scoured the desk with Clorox disinfectant wipes.
I have these products to keep myself safe,
to keep others safe. I would have used them to keep you safe,
if you were still here.
You know I’m not a germaphobe.
Remember that time I bit into an apple in the middle of Whole Foods--
I picked it right off the Granny Smith pyramid and chomped down?
“No, I don’t care how many people have touched this apple.”
My blood sugar had plummeted. I needed the sweetness,
germs and dirt be damned.
But the virus is spreading.
They’re saying it’s really bad.
And it’s going to get worse.
They say it attacks the lungs.
Hard on the elderly and the immuno-suppressed.
It would have been very hard on you, my sweet friend.
I walked down Washington Street on Friday, weeping
with relief that you don’t have to worry
or call all your doctors the minute your throat tickles.
You don’t have to pour over articles, zoom in on the charts,
check your phone for hourly updates.
I’m so happy you’re not stuck in your apartment, as lovely
as the view of the curving Lake Shore Drive is, as lovely
as it is to watch cars zoom north and south by the glistening water.
How lonely you’d be.
How your husband would have driven you crazy, if it were just
the two of you and the animals.
But then I wept because you are gone.
And you’ll never know about any of this.
You’ll never see
The empty train car during rush hour.
The downtown streets empty of tourists and commuters.
The barren shelves at the drug store, the grocery store.
The fear and anxiety framing everyone’s eyes.
The swagger of the President brutally misleading the country.
I checked on your husband.
He’s sad and misses you.
So do the dogs, and
he assumes the cats too, but who can tell?
He too is relieved you are missing this and
Sad you’re gone.
How you would have marveled
at the people hoarding
water, toilet paper, pasta, chicken breasts.
This Godless world, I would have cried to you,
and you would have told me
to pay attention. To look
for other stories. To find the quiet stories humming
with charity, humanity, connection.
“Look for the love stories.”
“Think of the people who helped us get and stay sober.”
“Think of the hands that have held you, that still hold you, that will always hold you.”
If you were here,
Would we let ourselves bake cookies and dunk them in milk?
Would we say fuck it and go get tattoos?
Would we send each other YouTube videos of songs we love?
The clearest way to describe how upside down the world is right now
is not to point to all the things that are canceled,
including your beloved Cubs’ opening day, and
the opera house, and universities, and grammar schools,
I haven’t obsessed about, criticized, demeaned or wished away
any part of my body in almost ten straight days.
Total fucking record.
This is what it took, the world grinding
to a furious, panicked halt--
This is what it took to get me to
to let go of frowning at the rise of my belly, the flesh of my thighs,
the droop of my middle-aged breasts.
The weirdly sublime side effect of this global pandemic
is that the only thing I feel
for my healthy body is
All the things you tried to teach me in the time you were my friend.
I can only bow to and adore
my healthy body.
You would be so proud of me.
But I’m still me, so let me be real:
I also bought 11 new shades of lip gloss
and two new drug store lipsticks because suddenly it seemed
terribly urgent to find the perfect neutral shade.
Listen to these porno-sounding colors:
You would laugh so hard at these names,
at my ridiculous cosmetic obsession.
Ah, Sweetie, where’re you going with those lips?
I’m not going anywhere,
but I am so scared.
Of what’s happening,
Who we might lose.
I think you would tell me:
It’s okay to be scared.
I’d only believe it from you,
but of course, your words would be a koan,
they always were.
You and your trickster spirituality.
You wouldn’t mean: You’ll be comfortable and back to normal in no time.
You wouldn’t mean: Your life won’t change.
You wouldn’t mean: You won’t know sorrow.
What you would mean by its okay would be something
Less comforting but more true.
You would mean: You have this moment, and you can choose
To be present.
To draw near.
To trust spirit.
And I would know what you meant, even though
I often prefer false assurances.
Like right now, honestly, I’d grab a guarantee like fistful of Oreos
I’d stuff one by one into my mouth
until my stomach ached.
I guess that’s why I wanted to write to you
and about you.
So I could remember the protein and vitamins of your words.
So I could tell you what you’re missing.
So I could remember who you were to me.
So I could spend time with you
both outside of and from within fear and contagion.
This way, I get to remember you and
how much I miss you.
And I wish you were here, and I’m so glad you’re not.
Christie Tate is a Chicago-based writer, originally from Texas. Her work has appeared in The New York Times, McSweeney's, The Rumpus, and elsewhere.