March 15, 2020
Things are pretty regular here. Crosstown bus still chugging. Laundromat TV still on. People are talking about it, but it’s not like a full-out frenzy. Was supposed to go to a birthday party in Brooklyn—not going. The grocery stores are semi-busy, but that could have just been because it was Saturday. The shelves are still stocked with food—except the cashiers have gloves now, and certain aisles are emptier, like the water and the rice. The mayor finally closed the darn schools. He was saying before too many kids would go hungry and unsupervised. A bunch of middle schoolers on my block were slapping and hugging each other, and I multiplied them by a hundred thousand. But still, it was about time. I’m a public school teacher myself and every October I’ve caught a bad cold without fail.
People still have jokes. A guy on Spanish radio still felt the need to explain the difference between the virus and the beer. And then there are the memes—I’ve been sharing my meals with roaches all my life so I think I will be good and If you’ve ever been in the water at City Island, you’re immune.
This whole thing has tested people’s politics, I tell you. I’ve heard conservatives be like, The government needs to test everyone, track everyone’s whereabouts and I’ve heard liberals completely dismiss the hungry children argument. Neither knowing what they’ve just said.
I bought a few weeks of food and filled the tank with gas just in case, but I refuse to wear gloves out as they’ve suggested. Part of it is I’m embarrassed. Part of it is I don’t want to acknowledge it has come to that yet.
Did you ever read Blindness by Jose Saramago? Isn’t what’s happening now eerily similar? The quarantines, the big media announcements? I realize more now that the brilliance of that book is that the blindness pandemic was not deadly. It doesn’t take an overly deadly pandemic to cause chaos. When the blind people are quarantined in that book, it was access to food and health care that caused problems, more so than the blindness affliction itself.
It is cool to see South Korea’s got an app that tells you who in the area has it. There are pictures of Thai people in traditional habits checking temperatures. Pictures of Rwandans dutifully at water posts. Nigeria is like, We’re prepared for Coronavirus—we’ve dealt with Ebola. If anything, this has been a weird celebration of international strength in places that many times don’t get the credit.
I’m telling you, 2020 has been a crazy year, man. First Kobe dies, then we get a hot winter, then they ban plastic bags, and now this.
But so far we’re good—for now—I think.
In lieu of payment, our friends and contributors to the Corona Correspondences are dedicating donations to nonprofits and independent businesses in their communities. Fofana’s contribution will be directed to BronxWorks.