My elderly uncle with the ‘No Solicitors’ sign on his door happily steps right out onto the covered porch to collect the three Costco-oversized boxes of tissues that I have brought to him.
“Are you going to come in?” he asks as I creep backward, down the three concrete steps.
“You better wash your hands now that you’ve touched those boxes,” I immediately reply. “I could have it, and it lives on cardboard for 24 hours.”
He brushes me off and acts, quite nonchalantly, as if he’s been expecting me. “Thanks, I was waiting for something like this. I use five or six tissues every time I have to clean my catheter.”
What a lucky find, I think. “Well, Floyd, you’re the master of social distancing. How have you handled the Coronavirus?”
It’s true. He’s been reclusive, the middle child and only boy wrenched between six sisters, for his entire adult life. He lives in the same house he bought as a young man, the 1950s Mayfair ranch decorated exactly the same as the original owner, and “Why should I change what’s already there?” He worked as a TV repairman for as long as there were TVs to repair, and happily retired twenty years ago to a lifestyle of only visiting the grocery store and denying most social invitations from his six sisters.
But now there are no tissues in his grocery store. No toilet paper. No frozen vegetables. No eggs. No sense of security for the five square miles he drives within any given week.
He talks my ear off in the fifteen minutes I stand in his front yard, keeping my six feet of social distancing requirement.
This isn’t like yesterday when I drove to all corners of the city to deliver my students their much-needed headsets, folders, notebooks, and supplies, when their parents seemed grateful for my latex gloves and, more importantly, my brevity. “Check Schoology!” I found myself shouting too many times, “It has everything you’ll need for your life right there!”
This is Coronatine, Day Thirteen: my elderly uncle, my not-so-elderly parents (who also need tissues), who I can only stand on the porch with, and not really visit.
“You’re really not going to come inside?” they inquire, and I mention Italy. We’ve all heard about Italy. My father’s mother was from Italy, still has living relatives there. “Over sixty, Dad,” is all I really have to say (my parents are 66).
And how did I manage in the Costco line today? The rain hadn’t started yet, nor the snow. It was cold, and I had my latex gloves on, plus my ski mask (I didn’t think far enough in advance to buy medical masks, so when I put it on in the parking lot, Fabian said he’d prefer to wait in the car. I didn’t care. I’m not fucking with this shit). I waited a good thirty minutes to socially distance myself, six feet back from the guy in front of me, to get in the store.
And they still didn’t have toilet paper.
This was after we visited the Mexican Envios, always open, line out the door, everyone ready to send money home to their poorer-than-any-of-us-here families back home. My boy was in and out in fifteen minutes, but his poverty-stricken father had to wait in line for three hours to get that money we sent him because this was the first day out of seven that the banks were open, and the seventh day out of infinity that he is unable to work and support those two baby girls.
Never mind that he lives in the most dangerous city on Earth with a corrupt government and police on every corner making sure you don’t go where you’re not supposed to.
Never mind that he doesn’t even have a mortgage because his house is a shack on his boss’s property constructed entirely of corrugated sheets of metal.
Never mind that however bad you think this is for us, standing in the cold in the Costco line, cleaning your catheter with the last bits of tissue, wishing you could hug your parents…
We still live here. Where capitalism, evil as it may be, allows me to trump the system and send an extra hundred dollars home to Honduras because, God, why the fuck not?
This is Coronatine, Day Thirteen: six boxes of tissues delivered. Check. Three hundred dollars sent to Honduras to buy food. Check. Wondering who has it among us, and which ones will die. Check.
What else is there to say?
I planted spinach just in time for the snow to water it. Please let it grow. Please, God, let it grow.