on covid-19

For the last of us, the most we can do is construct voices out of empty corridors.

We have learned to do this while our most cherished communities disintegrate. Once, we befriended a senior; now, we are eternally bereft. Once, we had roommates; now, we spend lonely nights staring at blankets that never move. Once, we had a confidante; now, we are left to watch our knuckles bleed as we knock on the pale door to a hollow dorm room. If we listen closely enough, the echo sounds like a voice. We have become the architects of a silent chorale, hoping that we are just being ignored through the wood.

For the last of us, the most we can do is pretend it will be the same when we meet again.

We cannot lie and say we have nothing to be grateful for. We have waved over half of our livelihood away without the burden of knowing it was for the last time. Now, we only stare at each other in tragic love, bearing nothing less than the disappointment of unfulfilled promises. Our eyes hold the kind of dewiness that you reserve for a final goodbye, but the words refuse to come out. They, too, have been told to forcibly leave their home, and yet they rest—for that, we respect our own silence. We have become all too familiar communicating without being in the present. A recorded lecture begs to be watched; a future assignment constricts our ability to emote. 

For the last of us, the most we can do is watch cardboard boxes open and tattered walls whiten again.

We have pressed reverse on the most pivotal time in our lives. A succulent is just a succulent; a lamp is just a lamp; a wardrobe is just a fading memory of what it meant to be individualistic. For the last of us, this remains true; we will wear the same clothes day by day until the squirrels chase each other around our spiny legs. There is no one to impress. We are living at our worst and expected to produce at our best. 

For the last of us, the most we can do is cower behind 2.7 million fluorescent pixels and wait for a bad omen to remove itself from our inboxes.

We will patiently wait for him to unsend the picture at the airport in the morning; for her clothes to levitate from unzipping suitcases and hang themselves back on the shelf; for the club meetings to reschedule themselves to yesterday evening; for the air to smell like cannabis on Wednesday, cheap liquor on Friday, and then back to cannabis on Saturday; for the speakers to blare childhood anthems in the lounge. Only then will we complain about how strong the scent is and how overplayed the songs are. We will moan and grunt as we downshift 4 gears to cross campus for yet another meeting. We will rip the penultimate sticky notes from the all-too-quickly eroding pile of purple adhesives and write ourselves a schedule we will not follow. We will exist for another mundane week, and we will learn to love it. Every forgotten nothing will sing joyously in the choir of our minds while we cry at our own deafness.

For the last of us, the most we can do is try to cherish that which was never in our future. To shed tears when the multiverse splits again and we wind up in the wrong version of Earth. 

We have begged for the leaves to wither while the flowers are still blooming. The last of us anxiously hope the carotenoids infect every bud like a virus transfected out of pure human will. Some part of me knows that this universe is not one-to-one; that is, that we don’t have to wait for the impossible. That the last of us can frolic and rejoice as we gleefully tear every living leaf and blossoming petal from the trees and wait for mother nature to catch up. That a congregation will respawn in lieu of the spring. 

For the last of us, the most we can do is sit and wait for a dry cough, a fever, or a pleasant aching in our lungs—anything for that sweet semblance of validation that we have been deprived of all of this for a reason.