Faith Arcuri presents ¨Living through a Pandemic¨

Faith Arcuri presents ¨Living through a Pandemic¨




Click goes my pen as I watch the minutes crawl by on the dreary analog clock on top of the door. The door to my freedom. The droning sound of Mrs. Greerson’s voice is ringing in my ears. I wish the ringing was the bell. Despite the moderately cool temperature of the outside world, it is sweltering in the compact room that is the classroom. The sweat dripping down my back is accelerating at the speed that I desire the clock to imitate. The musk emanating from the scrawny teenager sitting beside me is nausea inducing and I’m begging for bile to pour out of my throat just so I have an excuse to leave. God, I wish—

Brring! Brring!

I bolt out of the dank room faster than someone could say cheetah. I sprinted towards the exit in a desperate need to take a much deserved nap. I did not make an effort to look at the classmates I pass along the way. The ones wearing short skirts and crop tops to get measly attention from the opposite sex. The ones tossing a football back and forth to get more practice for tomorrow’s game. The ones scrambling to get to their bus in time so they don’t have to make the long trek home. The force of a tank pushed the door open and the crisp breeze infiltrated my body. The yellow sun shines on my face, the warmth absorbing into my skin. The blare of car horns and the bees nest swarming on the brick wall can not ruin the serenity that I feel blooming inside of me. 

Pulling out of the parking lot to head to my safe place, I think about the mass amount of homework I have. Just one day I wish I didn’t have anything to do so I could relax and enjoy myself- but no, that dream will never be fulfilled. 

Driving home the melodious voice of Kelly Clarkson streams through the radio, only sparking pure joy in my heart. My escape was in reach, and all I had to do was make the journey home with little to no damage done to me or my car. (Which is a challenge considering my car is like a pedestrian magnet- and the occasional tree magnet.) I drive downtown, through the bustling streets with little shops and restaurants all around. I stop at a traffic light, smiling at jubilant pedestrians passing by my window, hoping that they have a great afternoon ahead of them. The light changes to a fluorescent green, and as I start to push down on the gas pedal, a car explodes from my left and almost smashes right into me. I slam on the brake, my life flashing in front of my eyes. It felt like I was coming off of a high– my breathing erratic, and sweat is dripping from my body profusely.

I make a sharp left onto my street and paradise was in sight. Thirty more seconds and I will be safe in my driveway and obsess over what the topic of my English essay will be. I’ve been thinking about how–

Beeeeep! Beeeeep! Beeeep!

The sound coming from my radio breaks my happy thoughts, a shotgun through my brain. I try to listen the best that I can, but the cheesy “macho” voice of the broadcaster is making it very difficult to focus on the information. However, my attention is caught at the word “shutdown”. I turn up the volume to hear news that I never thought I would hear until the apocalypse.

“I repeat, the state of Connecticut, as well as other states across the country are in a complete shutdown. Citizens in these states should be extra cautious of possible infection. If you believe you have come into contact with someone infected by COVID-19, or are experiencing any symptoms such as a fever or chills, headaches, fatigue, muscle aches, and loss of taste or smell. You as well as the rest of your household should quarantine for two weeks. You should also set up an appointment for a COVID test. I advise that if you can stay home, stay home, unless you have been deemed an essential worker.”

The news hit like a ton of bricks.The coronavirus has officially hit the United States. I had a tiny thought that this could happen because of international travel and trade, but there was a major part of me hoping that this would never happen.

I have been reading about the virus, and from what I can understand it is a respiratory disease, with symptoms similar to the influenza. Initial reports have tied the virus to a seafood market in Wuhan China, the capital of the Hubei Province, in December. China reported the first victim was a 61 year old man who was a regular customer at the market. To combat the spread of the virus China had shut down all planes and trains entering and departing the city, as well as suspending buses, subways and ferries from within. Scientists have claimed that the virus is spread by bats, similar to how the bubonic plague was spread by fleas. It’s actually fascinating that a disease can transmit through an animal and infect an entire country. I just hope it doesn’t have the same amount of casualties.

Putting the key in the doorknob and twisting it like the knife in my stomach. The creaky mahogany door swung open and I was greeted with the scent of Febreeze. My mother must be home. She is the biggest germaphobe you will come across in your life. When I was a toddler she refused to let me go to the playground and have play dates with my friends. She blamed it on the heat, but deep down I always knew she was afraid I would contract Ebola. 

Out of fear of what I would encounter when I step off the welcome mat, I take two cautious steps into the living room and there she was, manically spraying our stark black leather sofa. Her hawk-like ears pick up my steps and she shortly turns to face me. I can tell she is trying to conceal her panic, but she is failing- miserably. Her dark chocolate brown eyes are flitting up and down my body trying to assess if I have the virus, like she has the ability to see it attacking my immune system. The black and blue bags under those eyes could be a disguise for a lack of sleep, but mixed with the news of the current state of our country, they were about ten times heavier. Her face a red tomato attempting to calm herself down as she inhales deeply. Inhale. Exhale. Inhale. Exhale. Her baby hairs that were previously contained by hairspray have sprung free and are flying in the wind as she suddenly stumbles towards me. 

“How was school?”

“It was good. I think I figured out what I’m-”

“That’s great sweetie. Did you hear the news?”

“Yeah I heard it on the way home.”

“Have you heard from your principal?” she rushed out. “Has school shut down yet?” 

“I don’t think so. You probably would’ve heard before me considering they have your phone number.”

“I mean it should because of quarantine, but-”

“Mom!” I feel bad about interrupting, but she was spiraling, and it was only the first day of the shutdown. I can only imagine what the next couple of weeks will be like stuck in this tiny house with her and my dad. “You need to calm down. The radio said that the whole state was shut down. Mr. Henderson will call soon enough,” I speak softly.

Despite my attempts to alleviate her concerns, her stress levels only increase. “I don’t understand why they haven’t said anything. What if someone at school has it? What if you get sick?” I want to tell her she is over-reacting, but then I see the look in her eyes. The one that says that she just wants me to be safe. One that says, I don’t know what I would do if something happened to you. I can’t fight with that look. No matter how much I try, I will lose- it’s unavoidable. 

I guide her to the couch and gently take her shaky hands. I look into her worry-filled eyes and utter the only words that come to mind. “Mom, I can’t control everything that happens, but I will do my best to make sure that I stay as safe and healthy as possible.”

She signs and deflates in front of my eyes. “I know you will. I raised you to be smart and careful, but have you been reading the news? The amount of fatalities has grown so much that hospitals and nursing homes are running out of places to put the bodies. Freezers are being used to keep the bodies ‘on ice’ until they can be buried or cremated. I don’t understand how it could have gotten this horrible.” I reach forward to wipe one stray tear that falls from her eye and slides down her cheek. “All I can think about are the families and what they are going through watching their loved ones die.”

We sit in silence for a moment, letting our new reality set in. 

I feel my mother’s posture shift from under me. Suddenly she is sitting straighter and has a new determination in her eyes. At least, I think it was determination. The longer I observe her, the more I realize it was another attempt to cover her feelings about what is happening outside of the living room.  

“I’m going to look in the freezer to see what we can have for dinner. Do you have an idea what you might want?” She starts to walk towards the basement door, but stops and leans the right half of her body on the cloud white door frame. 

For a moment I stare, unsure how to answer her sudden topic. “What’s my normal answer?” I ask, a smirk forming on my lips.

“I don’t know,” she mocks in a higher voice and a one shoulder shrug. She laughs and while the laugh was short, there was still a small smile on her face- appreciating me playing along.

I know that my joke would make her feel better, because little did she know her voice cracked when the word “freezer” fell from her lips.




I step out of the scorching shower and onto the icy tile floor. I stroll to the medicine cabinet and wipe the condensation that collected on the mirror. I sigh in content. Despite what is happening in our world, I feel like I can take a break. Any minute now my mom will barge into my bedroom and tell me that I will be learning online for the next two weeks. I couldn’t be more ecstatic. I will have the time to be able to do whatever I desire. I could go to the movies with friends. I could watch television in the middle of class. I can dance around the house blasting my music as loud as I want and not get yelled at. I would be free to do whatever I wanted. I would be free.

As if on cue, my mom bursts into my room to tell me I have online school. I would not have to go back to school until the end of March. Two weeks at home sound like heaven. I mean, how hard could it be right?

I decide to skip dinner so I can get a jumpstart on my work. I am going to take full advantage of my vacation starting tomorrow, but tonight I need to get cracking. Besides, it’s not like I’m missing much. I hop down the stairs to get some water, and I am smacked in the face with the rancid stench of old fish. I don’t know what is worse; the sloshing sound it makes when she flings it towards the front door, or the glassy eye that follows me as I skirt around it.

I am in the middle of writing my essay and my phone rings. I glance at the caller ID to see it’s my best friend Hannah. I have known Hannah since the third grade, and I remember it like it was yesterday. 

We were in the middle of recess. The sun was shining on the tar blacktop, but the heat was diminished by the breeze whipping through the play area behind the school. I looked across the way and noticed a group of boys crowded around this one girl. Even though I was only eight years old, my first thought was, hell no. I’ve never been one for bullying so when I saw that I knew I had to help. If it were me, I would want someone to help me. So, being the determined little shit I am, I marched up to the gaggle of boys and stepped in between them and the girl. 

“Look who it is, boys, it’s Alissa Marston,” Jeremy- the ringleader- stated, which was followed by an irritating shrill. Glaring up at him, I examined his face, almost wishing I could erase the image from my brain forever. His wrinkled forehead is littered with red, splotchy acne, (which a third grade boy should not have) his bushy caterpillar browed slithered across the bridge of his nose as he furrowed it at me in an effort to frighten me. His dirt colored eyes bored into me and made me shiver in disgust at the sheer fact that I had to make eye contact with him in order to deliver the geniously crafted insult that was percolating in my brain. My eyes traveled down to his bulbous nose with a line of green mucus slowly leaking out of his left nostril. Either he felt it or saw my line of sight because he wiped it off with the back of his ogre sized hand, and then proceeded to wipe it on his tattered blue jeans. Last but not least, his mouth. Oh his mouth. His brown snaggletooth poked out from behind his lip when he snarled by name. His onion scented breath spread out over my face and covered it like a fog, clogging my nasal cavity for the rest of the week.

A boy like Jeremy only responds to one thing- threats. He walks around the halls with his head held high, displaying his holier-than-thou attitude with an underlying tone of intimidation. So, the only way that I knew I was going to get through to him was to stoop down to his level and beat him at his own game. Most kids feed into his ego. He’s used to winning, but not today.

“Leave her alone,” I stated in as calm of a voice as possible. Even though I knew it was going to get messy, I didn’t want to resort to anything that could lead to punishment if I could avoid it. 

“Oohh,” he sneered, “look, the little girl is pretending she’s tough. If only she knew,” he cackled. “Seems like we’ll have to show her.” He cracked his knuckles as he and his posse of idiots took one choreographed step towards me and I knew my plan for a ‘peaceful’ takedown disappeared.

I conjured a look of fury, squared my shoulders going into a warrior stance as I leered at the behemoth in front of me and placed my tiny hand on his chest to prevent him from coming closer. “Listen here mo-ron, one of three things are going to happen within the next minute. One,” I started as I stuck up my pointer finger, hoping to bolster the strength of my warning, “you are going to apologize to her for being a dick and show me that you can be a redeemable human being. Two: You stomp away like the toddler you are, never ever glance in her direction for the rest of your unfilling life, and we can pretend this never happened. Or, you choose to do nothing and I kick your ass. I’ll start with something simple, maybe punch you in the nose like this,” I followed through with a knockout worthy punch, connecting right in the middle like a dart hitting a bullseye. (Not that it was hard because his nose is gigantic.) At this point a crowd of about fifteen kids had gathered around us wanting to see the show that was about to unfold. “Then, if that doesn’t get through your thick skull I will punch you in the stomach so I can knee you in the face. At this point, your mouth will be opening because you’ll be gasping for air and screaming from the pain. You don’t have to worry though. I will be generous enough to give you an opportunity to take the two previous options that I mentioned. If you are still dumb enough to ignore the gracious reprieve, I will then stick my hand down your throat and rip out your tonsils. What?,” I scoffed, “it’s not like you need them anyway,” I smirked. At this point people are staring wide eyed and grinning like they would watching gorillas at the zoo. I think they were just happy that someone was finally standing up to this fool. I stopped to take a much needed breath. Despite being a little afraid that I would be the one getting hit, I have never felt so alive. “So, what’s it gonna be?”

Jeremy appeared to be in complete shock from either one of two things. He was either shocked that a three foot one girl who looked about half his size just talked to him the way that I did; or because he did not know what his next course of action should be. His eyes flicked back and forth between me and the crowd. Trying to see if I would follow through, and gauging the crowd’s reaction. Out of fear of getting his butt kicked he snarled, snapped his fingers, and he and his crew stomped away. The group applauds, amazed that someone was able to slay the dragon. 

The only thing that mattered was that Hannah was okay.

I turned around and found her still lying on the ground squinting her eyes to try and get a good look through the sunlight. I stuck my hand out for her and in that one touch, it cemented our relationship. We have been inseparable since. Through every broken bone, every smile, every tear, every laugh, there was nothing that could end our friendship.

I pick up the phone, thinking I deserve a little break from the grueling effort of writing literary genius. “Hello?”

“ALISSA! ALISSA! ALISSA,” she squeaks out.

“Why are you shouting?”

‘I wanted to make sure you could hear the amazing news that I am about to tell you.”

“I’m sorry, what was that? A minute ago I had impeccable hearing, but something happened and now I can’t hear anything,” I joke. 

“Ha ha,” I can hear the eye roll on her end. “I don’t know why I’m still friends with you. I deserve better.”

“Like you can do better. I am the best,” I smirk. “Anyway, what’s this amazing news you had to burst my eardrums for?”
“Did you hear that we are online for the next two weeks because some old guy died from COVID?”

I look at my phone in confusion wondering how she can be excited about an innocent old man getting sick and dying. “How is that a good thing?” I ask her, ignoring her question.

“No, not that part,” replying like I was the crazy one, “I’m talking about the fact that we don’t have to deal with meathead jocks for the next two weeks.”

“Oh please, like you aren’t going to miss gawking at them in the halls. If I recall, you said just this morning you said, and I quote, “Watching the lacrosse team strut by wearing their jerseys is the highlight of my day.”

Pause. “Ok, yes. Maybe I will miss that, but if it means that I won’t have to step into a building that smells like dirty river water, then it is a sacrifice that I am willing to make. To keep my sense of smell as well as my sanity,” she chuckles.

“Good. I’m glad to know your priorities are in the right place,” I smile. “How do you think this will work for the next couple weeks?

“I’m not sure, but I’m not that concerned. As long as I pass junior year, I don’t give a damn what they decide to do.”

“Same,” I agree. I mean, maybe I’m a little worried because school is actually really important to me. The only thing that is calming me down is that I get the downtime I have been craving since the beginning of the semester. 

“So,” she prompts, “what are we doing tomorrow?”

“I was thinking about going to the movies tomorrow. That new movie with Lucy Hale hit the theaters yesterday.”
“Cool. See you there.”
“Bye,” I say as I hit the “end call” button.

Even though I am going to have a couple weeks to relax, I decide to go to bed now and catch up on sleep. I shuffle towards my nightstand and flick the switch that illuminates my lava lamp and watch as the bubbles move up and down. When I was younger my parents bought me a small lava lamp. The shell was black and the inside was grape purple. I would sit on the living room carpet for hours and watch as the blobs would move up and down, connecting and disconnecting from one another. I would never get bored of that thing. For my fifteenth birthday my parents bought me this lamp, a white shell with green orbs continuously bouncing up and down like children on a sugar high. After a few minutes of admiring the toy, I lay my head on the pillow, already feeling the exhaustion consuming me.


Waking up this morning, I take in one slow breath knowing I don’t have to rush to get ready to go to school. I slowly sit up, stretching my arms and legs. I roll out of bed and reach for my light pink curtains. As they scrape across the wooden curtain rod, I stand in front of my window and allow the sun’s heat to travel my body. It starts at the top of my head and I savor the warmth as it ventures to the tip of my toes. I look around my room, my permanent location for the next two weeks. My walls are painted lilac purple, covered with posters of my favorite celebrities and television shows. Next to my bed is a floor to ceiling bookshelf filled with amazing literary works; mainly modern works, but there are some classics in there too. My closet door is partially open, and I slide it all the way to grab my favorite sweatshirt. It’s grey, the inside fuzzy- like I’m lying on the ground and dogs are cuddling with me- and there’s a picture of Mickey Mouse on the back in front of Cinderella’s castle. My mom gave it to me after we went to Disney World for my tenth birthday. That trip was the first time I had ever been on an airplane. The only reason she gave it to me was because it no longer fit her, meaning that it was big on me, but that is the reason I loved it. It feels like I’m wrapping myself in a big blanket, the kind you wrap around yourself when it’s snowing outside and you’re going to watch a movie, with a cup of hot cocoa, sitting in front of the fireplace. The other thing about my room is that despite its small size, I have been able to fit a lot of stuff in there. Although I am a fairly clean person, the one messy thing is my desk. I actually consider it more of a glorified junk drawer because when I acquire a new item and have no idea where to put it, I put it in or on my desk. It’s stuffed with papers from my previous years of school, bookmarks, school supplies, my laptop (as well as the charger and the case) and other nonsense that I should probably throw in the garbage, but I don’t have the motivation to do so.

I plop on my bed and check my phone for any text messages that I received while sleeping. As I expected, I got like fifty messages about the shutdown, as well as seeing it as the first twenty posts on my Twitter feed. I’m not surprised. This is the biggest thing to happen to my generation, and the only way that kids my age can express their feelings is on social media in emoticons. Any social issue that occurs in America ends up on the internet at some point. Unfortunately, that is how a lot of people get their information these days- whether it is news or not. After Donald Trump was elected president in 2016, he coined the term “fake news,” deeming information fake news whenever a journalist publishes something that shines a negative light on him. The real problem is that people believe this. Yes, there is a lot of misinformation out there, but people do not take the time to determine what is real and what isn’t. 

I dash to the bathroom to hop in the shower to get ready for the movie with Hannah. As the water drips down my body, I debate on whether or not I should wear a mask. The CDC is advising citizens to wear one when in public, (as well as social distance) but I don’t want to be the only one wearing one. 

People will look at me and think oh, she’s one of those. 

I don’t get that though. If the point of the mask is to protect myself and those around me, why should other people feel the need to have a problem with what I am doing to keep them safe?

I think part of the reason behind this idea is that those in power, such as President Trump, claim that the virus is not a big deal and it won’t have an effect on America. He said that we shouldn’t worry because the government has it “under control” and this is giving the country an aloof attitude towards a virus that has already killed hundreds of people. Due to the information that is not being presented, (or simply ignored) people are unaware of what the potential damage this virus could bring home. 

I decide that I am going to wear a mask. I know it is the right thing for me and those around me. Although I know this, I have a sneaking suspicion that this will not be such a cut and dry issue. 


I arrived at the rundown theater, and there is one lonely car parked right by the door. The fact that it is a baby blue Honda Accord tells me that it is Hannah and her mom waiting for me. I’m surprised, she’s never early.

We walk in with my mask in hand prepared to put it on in case there are more people, but it appears I do not need to worry about that. Reflecting the environment outside, there are only two people- the employees. We saunter to the concessions counter, the aroma of buttery popcorn and sweet smell of chocolate pushing through their cardboard boxes wafting up my nose, overtaking my senses. 

As we got closer, I decide to wear my mask because the virus spreads up to six feet through the air, and I do not want to get sick the one time I decide to go out and do something with my friend.

Now that we have our thirty dollars worth of snacks and drinks, we head to the theater where our movie is playing. We walk in and see that we have the theater ourselves.

“Maybe other people will come a little later,” Hannah mentions while glancing at me.

“Maybe,” I reply apprehensively. I have a feeling that we will remain the only people coming to see the movie.


Well, I was right. We were the only people that came out to watch the movie. I’m not quite sure what I am expecting when we walk towards the lobby, but it’s not this. Normally there are groups of people in line for tickets and snacks, little kids kicking and screaming, dragging their parents to go to the bathroom. You can barely hear the chatter about what movie people are hoping to see because the sounds of laughter and guns firing from the arcade games overtake any other noise. God only knows where everybody is.

Driving home, the streets are barren. I mean, it’s a Friday afternoon, and there is nobody outside. I live on a street with a lot of children that spend a lot of time playing outside, and even my street is empty. The sky starts to darken and it feels like mother nature is predicting what will happen in the next couple of weeks. Like it knows that the coronavirus will have a bigger impact on our world than everyone wants to believe.




Today is the worst day in existence. Today is the start of a week of torture. Today was created by Satan himself to punish teenagers for the actions they committed as children. Today is the day that every person on the planet dreads. Today is Monday, also known as the first day of online school. 

I received an email from Mr. Henderson last night explaining the ins-and-outs of the next two weeks. We will continue our rotating schedule of even periods one day, odds the next. The only difference is that instead of starting school at 7:40 and ending at 2:00, school will begin at 8:00 and let out at 1:00. Other than being on computers instead of being in the building, it shouldn’t be that different- hopefully.

At 7:55 I log onto the chromebook my school provided, getting ready to sign into my Spanish class. When 8:00 rolls around, I go into Google Classroom to log into the meet that we would be using, but it was not there. 

Surprise surprise, Sendra is late. When we were in school, we wouldn’t start actually learning anything until a good twenty minutes after class because we would have a conversation with five different topics. I’ll try again in five minutes.




No luck


My phone chimes. It’s my friend Nicole, who’s also in my class.

“Are you able to get into Sendra’s meet?” the message reads.

“No. I take it you can’t either?”

Ding. “No. I’m glad to know that I’m not the only one who can’t get in. I thought I was having internet problems.”

“I just thought that he was late because he always is. Do we just not have any work to do?”
“I guess not.”

“Sweet,” I type back and turn my phone off. I run to my room to grab The Handmaid’s Tale and wait for my Chemistry class to start.

After about 20 minutes of some quality reading I sign back into my chromebook for my next class. No surprise that Mrs. Cockran was on time for the meeting. Also not a surprise- I was the first person to enter the meeting. It was nice to be able to have a one-on-one conversation with her, but I have a feeling that if anyone has a question during class it will be extremely difficult. We spend most of class going over how class will run and the tools available on Google Meets (like the raise hand button and the chat feature). 

“Okay. Now that we have gotten that out of the way, does anyone have any questions?”

“Yes I do,” said another classmate, Kelly. 

Mrs. Cockran didn’t even register that someone responded, and continues with the lesson. About halfway through class she asks if anyone has any further questions about polar and nonpolar bonds. I saw Sam’s microphone shut off the mute feature and he asks about any tricks to tell the difference between the two types of bonds, and again Mrs. Cockran does not answer. 

“Seriously guys, just because we are in a new setting does not mean you should be afraid to ask questions. If you have them I’m sure that someone else does too,” she states, slightly agitated. It then dawns on me that all of the students can hear everything that is happening in the meet, but she can’t. 

That would become a common theme throughout the next two weeks.




April vacation. 

It has been a month since the shutdown. A month of staying home, never going past the driveway. A month of learning online. A month of glitchy class and broken internet connections. Of awkward and quiet breakout rooms. Of countless emails to my teachers about assignments.  

Of isolation. 



At this point, there are hundreds, thousands of deaths in America. I’ve been counting down the days until the shutdown is over. Counting down the days until a potential vaccine is created. Counting the days that have passed that someone I care about hasn’t contracted COVID.

I’ve been watching the political back and forth about this virus on the news for weeks, and it is unfortunate that I have to say “political” when talking about how America recovers from this pandemic. It seems that any issue that has arisen from the virus becomes divided by the political parties. President Trump and the GOP arguing one thing, and the democrats refuting with the complete opposite. Topics like masks and social distancing. Instead of letting organizations like the CDC and WHO relay the factual information that is required to keep the country safe in protecting themselves against the virus. Trump has gone as far to say that these organizations do not know what they are talking about, and health officials like Dr. Anthony Fauci are wrong or confused. Most conservatives believe that masks are useless, even a restriction on our personal freedoms. On the flip side, liberals are for masks and mask mandates because the government is working to protect the people. However, you can make a strong argument for mask mandates from the strongest conservative position, based on the matter that is not for the harm of others. You can think of it from this standpoint: I don’t have the right to put your life in danger, just like you don’t have that right to do that to me.

Another debate has been about stimulus checks that are being sent as a result of the mass unemployment in the country. Due to the fact that a lot of small (and even large) businesses had to close due to a lack of revenue, Congress has decided to send out checks to all American citizens so they can pay their bills, buy food, etc. Democrats have been fighting to get more money per check but Republicans are opposing this, claiming they need to reserve that money for other important expenses. 

 In the media, the pandemic has been approached as a political story, but it is so much more than that. It is about the health of the millions of people in our country, and should not be just another power struggle between the two parties. If the parties could put aside their own philosophies and focus on the ethics and principles of their jobs, we might be on a better track than we currently are. There might be less casualties, more PPE and more food and other necessities. For some peculiar reason there has been a toilet paper shortage, like that will stop the spread of the pandemic-going out and stockpiling on toilet paper. 

My mom works at Walmart, and because she was deemed an essential worker she has been going out on the front lines everyday to make ends meet for our family. She tells me wild stories when she comes home everyday. Stories like customers still entering the store without a mask and having to be escorted out, people fighting over products, and how some refuse to follow the arrows on the floor. It astonishing that people who claim to be patriots are so willing to put their fellow Americans at risk.

The current environment of our country has put a pause on everything. Easter, other family gatherings, in-person schooling, and getting to spend time with my friends. Although, I have picked up a few new hobbies. I’ve gotten to spend a lot of time reading, gotten interested in yoga, watching just about every show on Netflix, and even arts and crafts. (Which is a feat within itself considering I am artistically challenged.) Despite being deprived of socialization, I have thrived in the fact that I have been able to try/enjoy new things and discover new things about myself. The quiet time is nice for a little introspection, but I crave to be somewhere twenty feet from my house. 

Laying in bed, losing my mind, my mom comes into my room to ask me if I want to go to the store with her. I jump up, eyes wide and filled with hope and the mere idea of leaving my bed. “I don’t think I’ve seen you move that fast in weeks,” my mother jokes, surprise clear on her face.

“Well, I haven’t had anything to move around for.” I get up to get ready, thrilled by the idea of going to the grocery store, the first thing that I have had to look forward to on my vacation. 

Tiptoeing out the front door, I see the world around me in a whole new light. The air smells fresh and clean (not an artificial clean either). The sun is a million times brighter, warmer, and comforting. The sky is a brilliant baby blue without a cloud in sight. There are birds flying however, soaring. Their chirps are loud with exuberance as they venture towards their next destination. There is no other sound polluting the atmosphere, as everyone else is staying home too. Yet, the buzz in the air is prominent. Observing those on the streets is the only thing that remains the same. People keep as much distance as they can between one another. I look forward to the day in which we don’t have to put that much physical distance between us. There already is too much division in our country. The last thing we need is to break any form of personal connections.

Pulling into the store I was expecting to see a similar sight as the movie theater parking lot, but I couldn’t be more wrong. Almost every spot is occupied and the line is wrapping around the side of the building. After ten minutes of searching for an empty space we are able to exit the car and venture towards the store. Due to the time of day, it was starting to get warm outside, the sunlight hitting the mile long line outside of the store. Luckily we are all six feet apart, following CDC guidelines. So far so good.

How bad could this be?

Twenty four minutes later, and we are still standing in line. Behind us is a family of five, and a little boy kept inching closer and closer to me the closer we reach the entrance. “Here, get in front of me,” my mother requests, pushing me forward. Her main concern being that they were not wearing masks. His parents probably did not see the need considering they are not in the store yet. 

We finally make it inside, and it is a real life circus. Customers knocking into each other like bowling pins as they are frantically pushing items into their shopping carts. The store’s temperature is unusually high because of the oven working in overdrive to make food for the customers to grab their mad rush. Many of the earlybirds in their pajamas so they could get their proverbial worms. I hear requests for certain items, only to be denied by employees due to it being out of stock. The atmosphere is tense, apocalyptic. 

“Here’s what we’re gonna do,” mom turns to me, ready for a mission. “We’re gonna go to the cleaning supplies right away to see what is left, then to the produce, weave in and out of the other aisles, then frozen food last so it stays cold.”

“Got it,” I chuckle, finding her dramatics amusing.

“Don’t laugh at me. This is some serious business. You wouldn’t know because you haven’t been here in about a month, but if you want paper towels and things like that, you need to get there faster than a bolt of lightning to get it before someone else does.”

“Okay,” I fake surrender. I’ll let her take charge on this one. She’s right, I haven’t been out in a month. For all I know, it could be worse than she is making it out to be.

Unfortunately for us, the cleaning supplies are on the opposite side of the store. So, we have to make it across the battlefield without getting caught in the crossfire. 

Right off the bat we are experiencing issues. Ducking through the throngs of people standing in lines for the cash registers is difficult, multiple people think we are trying to cut in front of them. “Does it look like we have anything in our hands,” mom remarks numerous times. She looks to me sarcasm evident in her tone and annoyance on her face. I smirk and we continue fighting through the crowd. I am bumped into on four different occasions. They are all wearing masks, but that doesn’t mean that I still can’t get sick. Once we arrive at our destination, it was like standing in the desert, and I am seeing a mirage, an optical illusion. Every single shelf was empty. It was like staring out into the horizon, only to find nothing in front of you- no hope. This is what has happened to supposedly one of the strongest countries in the world. Reduced to having to search far and wide for paper towels and toilet paper. Fighting over produce and deli items . Fighting over the security of knowing when our next meal is. 

I hear a resigned exhale from my left , knowing the look of defeat adorning mom’s face without having to turn my head. Instead of dwelling on what we can’t buy, I move towards the produce to see what I can find. There is no point in obsessing over what I can’t control. I can only think about so much before my brain explodes, and I want to do everything possible to make sure that never happens. 




I wake up with the sun streaming through the curtains, my phone buzzing louder than a hornet’s nest on a hot day. I stretch to grab it from my nightstand, always looking at the date first. May 25, 2020. We have been under a state of emergency for about two and a half months by now and not much has changed- other than the death count. The death toll has just about doubled since the last time I checked over April break. I want to be informed, but with the news changing everyday, it’s hard to keep track. Seeing our country in such devastation is too much for me to handle at this point. 

I look to see what the commotion was about seeing that Hannah has texted me about twenty times, the first is some random video. She sends me Tik Tok’s all the time, so this is nothing new. Never did I think she would send me the type of video I was about to see.

It was a phone recording of a police officer kneeling on someone’s neck. 

Someone pleading for mercy. 

Someone screaming, “I can’t breathe”. 


The shock overtaking me at the content on my phone screen causes my body to vibrate in rage, utterly appalled and confused on how someone can treat a human being like this. How can someone continue to hurt someone when they know that person is in immense pain? 

The reason: That person suffering is black. 

Race. That is ultimately what it comes down to. You would think that in a country that has fought for its independence, gender equality, abolished slavery that systemic racism would not be such a dividing issue. However, it is the strongest it has ever been. 

Or that is what people choose to believe.

Systemic racism has existed despite the dissolvement of slavery and segregation during the Civil Rights Movement. There has been progress made- there is no denying that. What you can deny is that every man in this country is equal. There is no such thing as equal in terms of race. Black Americans across the country are still facing challenges that white Americans will never have to endure or attempt to understand; but that’s the problem. No one tries to understand the struggles that black Americans face everyday, like different opportunities. A white man has more chances of working a higher paying job than a black man, despite having the same (if not more) prospects. 

Due to more civilian reporting and social media, the social injustice that plague our country are beginning to shine a light on the profiling and injustices that have been ignored for the past six decades. That is what is so special about reporting. At any moment a person can whip out their phone and hit the record but, capturing the scene live. There is no way that someone can put their own spin on it or opinion into it, it is just straight news that needs to be seen. That is the problem with a lot of reporting these days. Mainstream news channels and websites publish more opinions and facts, allowing their bias to show in what they present and how they choose to present it. While most people want confirmation bias by having someone support what they already believe is true, there are some people out there who just want the information. They don’t want the propaganda that is shadowing the story, they just want the unedited truth. Journalists think that they can add their bias, disguising it as fact, but then they are not reporting anymore, they’re lobbying. The only positive thing to come out of this is, the pandemic has forced attention on issues that have always been there. Social media has allowed regular citizens to display something in an organic way. It is a more accessible way to reach the younger generations, inviting them to see what really happens in our country, and hopefully inspire them to get involved and make a change.

In the slew of messages Hannah sent me, she mentions there is going to be a protest to fight for more equality tomorrow, and I wanna go. The only problem is my mom. There was a protest pre-pandemic to fight gender inequality, and she banned me from going because she was worried that I would get hurt or arrested. I know the dangers of going to something like this, but this is too important. I know that one protest won’t do that much, but something needs to be done. This is the future of our country. The future that I will be living in, that my future kids will have to live in. There could be a lot more people hurt before some sort of change occurs. I have a voice, and now it’s time for me to use it.


I hear the car door slam and I know that it’s mom. I worry that the ferocity of the slam might indicate that she had a bad day at work, but I can’t let that deter me from telling her about the protest. If I don’t stand up for what I believe in now, there is a chance that I never will.

She trudges through the front door eyeing me as I sit at the bottom of the steps waiting for her to say something.

“Why are you looking at me like that?” she questions. She examines my face, trying to see if I’m hiding something.

“Wow. I’m so thankful for that warm greeting. I’m wonderful, my day was amazing, how was your’s?” I muse, hoping to calm her day.

“Sorry,” she sighs. “I’ve just had a rough day at work.”

“Dealt with idiots all day?” It seems the longer this pandemic exists, the more people are refusing to follow safety protocols, and the more hostile people are becoming towards those who do. I get to hear stories daily about how obnoxious and rude people are to my mom at work, just because she follows the rules and tries to keep others safe. 

“You have no idea.” She goes on to tell me about who two people got into a physical altercation because a customer in the store wasn’t wearing a mask. Another customer told him that for the safety of everyone in the store he should put his pride aside and wear the mask. They got in each other’s faces. The maskless man threw the first punch, claiming that he thinks masks are useless and that it’s against his personal freedoms. That is what is wrong with today’s society. The sense of individualism that we feel breeds anti-intellectualism. There is a “me” before “we” attitude in terms of medical issues. People think that they know what is best for themselves and their bodies, meaning that they don’t take into consideration how they’re decisions affect others. Civilians believe they don’t need to listen to medical experts so they rely on themselves believing they know better. This only leads to self destructive behavior because if they get sick, choosing to go out in public maskless gets other people sick too. 

Now that she got that off her chest, I decide that now is the best time to ask about the protest before she works herself up again 

“So,” I start, trying to ease into it as much as I can. “Did you hear about what happened in Minneapolis?”

“Yeah. Isn’t that just awful. We’re already dealing with the virus, and now this! I just don’t understand what goes through people’s brains sometimes, you know?”
“Yeah. Me either. Hey,” I pause, cautiously thinking about how I might phrase this. “There is a socially distanced protest tomorrow because of what happened to George Flyod, and I was really hoping that I could go,” I beg, practically hearing the inevitable no that is going to come my way.

She stares off into the distance, and I can see the cogs turning behind her eyes. It appears like she might actually be thinking about it instead of shutting me down right away. Maybe I have a shot! She glances up at me and I change my expression, now rocking the best beggin look I could muster. I make sure to stick my lower lip out extra far and the puppy dog eyes are in effect. Her face softens, realizing how important this is to me. Yes! I have her!

“I’m sorry sweetie, but I don’t think I’m okay with you going.” I open my mouth to interject, but she puts her hand up to signal that I better not. “I know you want to go, and I know you said that people will be social-distancing, but I still don’t think it’s a good idea. The whole point of a protest is for people to get together and that doesn’t follow the six feet apart rule. Besides, I doubt anyone will be wearing a mask. I can’t risk you getting sick or hurt if things get violent.”

“I understand where you’re coming from, I do, but you always tell me to fight for the things that I believe in, and I really believe in this,” I argue, hoping to reason with her in the best way I can.
“I know and I think it’s great that you believe in something so strongly, but I still don’t want you to go. If things were different-”

“Oh don’t even try that,” I retort. The fact that she is trying to say I could go if it weren’t for the pandemic is ludicrous. I know my mother better than anyone, and I know that is total crap. “You would never let me go. Don’t try to blame you treating me like a child on the pandemic. I knew there was no chance you were going to give me permission to go, but I guess it’s a good thing that I don’t need it.”

“You don’t think you need it,” she glares at me incredulously. “I treat you like a child because despite what you think, you are one. Until you move out of this house or start paying rent, you will follow my rules.”

There is dead air as I stare at my feet debating my response. I’m not going to say something ridiculous like say, ‘Fine, then I’m moving out.’ She hasn’t done that good of a job teaching how to live on my own. Besides, I have nowhere else to go. I glance up and it feels like we’re in a standoff waiting for the other to shoot first.  I open my mouth, ready to be the adult in the situation, but her next words throw that out the window, and is burning in fire becoming a pile of ashes.

“I forbid you from going,” she states sternly, crossing her arms for added effect.

I gape at her, my mouth wide open, completely shocked that she would say that to me. Never in my life have I heard those words come out of her mouth and honestly, I never thought I would. “Forbidding” is something that those super uptight controlling parents say to their kids to get them to give up, little does she know that I won’t give up that easily. “You forbid me?” I challenge, fury and disbelief in my eyes.
“Yes I forbid you,” she repeats, like it will make it sink into my brain.

Before I say something that I will (or won’t) regret, I stomp up the stairs to demonstrate my anger towards the conversation and that I refuse to let it go any further. Knowing her she won’t talk to me for the next few days, and that is fine with me. The less contact I have with her, the better. 

I head to bed, ready for the day I have ahead of me. I have never been much of a rule breaker- I hated getting in trouble. In fact, I cried in the third grade when my green card was changed to yellow because I was talking to a friend of mine. I’m worried about the repercussions of breaking my mother’s forbiddance, but it is a necessary risk.

The next morning I wake up to nothing but dark sky and grey clouds looming over my house. The air is silent, deafening. I feel nerves coarse through my body as I remember what I have planned for today. I am going to go to a protest that I was banned from. I notice her car is missing from the driveway, alleviating the anxiety that was consuming my body. The excitement of getting involved in such an instrumental step towards change brightens my mood. This may not be an injustice that I have ever experienced, but I am speaking for those who have been passed over, stuck on the outside looking through the glass that separates them from those who “deserve’ the privileges they have received. George Flyod’s death is a tragedy, but I pray that it causes people to understand that we need to do better. This should become an experience for growth and introspection to make the country a more inclusive, just country moving forward. 

Walking towards the town square I notice a hoard of people gathering around a young woman on a soapbox, shouting into a megaphone. “I just want to say how much I appreciate those who have come out to show their support for the Black Lives Matter Movement. What happened to Geroge Flyod is disgusting, and has been happening to people of color for centuries. We are here to tell police officers that we will no longer suffer at their hand because we are human beings, just like them. We need food and water like they do. We breathe the same air as them. We have blood pumping through our veins that should not be spilled on the floor after an unnecessary gunshot! We will not hide inside, afraid to walk the streets. It’s time to light the fuse that should have been lit a long time ago. It’s time to let go of the fear inside and get the peace we deserve and start to heal!”  

Roars of applause erupt. She jumps off of the box and starts to lead the march. She begins to chant, “What do we want?”

“Equality!” the crowd shouts back

“When do we want it?”

Hiking through the streets reciting this chant, it is exhilarating. Although the protesters aren’t as separate as they should be, they are still wearing masks and not huddled together in a big cluster like most protests. However, I notice a lot of leering, maskless spectators. This one man stalks my movements as I pass by him. His stern eyes make contact with mine, and the look she gave me is undisguisable. Hate. Disgust. He even goes as far as to growl at me to show his contempt at the event that is occuring. I race ahead to get away from the potentially violent individual. 

The unease fades, but quickly returns as there is a barricade of angry people come into view. Their hands clutching signs reading “Blue Lives Matter”. Some with the fist symbolizing BLM with a red circle through it. The scariest sight of all: Someone wearing a Ku Klux Klan Robe. I glance at our leader to gauge her reaction, and she does not seem remotely afraid. “Excuse,” she calmly addresses her adversary, “would you kindly let us pass?”

The man in the middle of the line looks her up and down, just like how Jeremey did that fateful day in the third grade. However, I don’t think this confrontation will have the same happy ending that one did. The disgust in his expression mirrors the man from earlier, making me think that he could be involved with this group of antagonists. “I’m going to have to say no. We have the same right to display our beliefs, just like you do.”

“I’m not opposing that,” she says trying to prevent the situation from escalating, “I’m just hoping we can pass by so we can continue our walk.”
“Listen you negro. Just because one man died from resisting arrest, that doesn’t mean that every white police officer should be deemed the villain.” 

“That is not our objective today. The reason we are marching is to demonstrate that we will not sit back and let innocent people be brutally murdered in front of their families.”

“I’m sorry,” he raises his hands in fake surrender. “I was just trying to say that you shouldn’t push your political agenda on those who are just trying to live their lives.”

“I have no political agenda to push. I know that people seem to think that fighting for black lives is a bipartisan issue, but it is not. This is not a debate for the left or the right. It is a demand for all lives to be treated like they matter, that they are not someone that deserves to be stepped on. We gravitate towards those who share our beliefs, but why can’t we all agree that a life is a life. That they are a human being who deserves a good career, a family, a life without fear. People like you who are perpetuating these xenophobic ideas is what is holding this country back from being the amazing country that everyone thinks it is. People flee from their homes in hopes of living the American Dream, only to realize this country is not that different from the nightmare they just escaped from. If we can forget the political parties and forget the racist history that our ancestors lived, we could restore this country to its glory. If you just step aside, that will send a message far louder than anything you scream at us.”

The bravery and courage that I just witnessed is astounding, but appropriate. With the upcoming election, there have already been political battle lines drawn, and the blowback will be catastrophic. 

“Nice speech,” he huffs, “but it’s not going to make me move from this spot. You’re gonna have to move me yourself princess.” He begins to approach her, inches away from her face.

The tension is palpable. The actions of these two are unpredictable, but both sides seem to be ready to defend against an attack at any moment. “Listen here mister. I asked you nicely, multiple times now and you still ignore my requests. I’m not going to stoop to your level of bigotry and hate, but I am going to ask you to get out of my face considering you are not wearing a mask,” she declares. 

He returns to his original stance, his annoyance ready to boil over at any moment. “Well, you’re wearing a mask, so what difference does it make,” he sneers.

“The difference is, that I listen to the science because I don’t want to get sick while you listen to the orange that thinks you should ingest bleach to protect yourself from COVID,” she quips.

“Oh, enough with “listen to science” already,” he exasperates. “If scientists knew what they were talking about, do you think we would still be in the middle of a pandemic?”

Can’t the same be said about listening to President Trump?

“I understand that the facts keep changing, and it can be difficult to know what is real or fake nowadays, but the one thing we can count on is the fact that science is evolving in ways that can help us recover from COVID. We just need to follow through with some due diligence and hopefully we will be out of the woods soon enough for society to return to normal.”

That is where she made her mistake. She said the word that no one wants to hear right now: hopefully. At a time like this, people want to be in control. When they aren’t or feel like control has been taken from them, they do whatever they can to take it back.

Any restraint this man had disappears, and his followers begin to advance towards us, outrage their driving force as they scream at us to give up. The world around me morphes into a jungle, predators hunting their prey. The sounds that fill my ears are animalistic, violent, and the scent of fear floating to my nose. Limbs are flailing as each side tries to get a hit. Neither make any significant damage- so far. I spin around, fear my driving force as my attention is drawn to one alarming detail. The opposition is charging at BLM protesters and savagely beating them, ripping off their masks. The crowd of people whose original intent was watching the protest turns into flashing lights from cameras and fearful screams; those who are not involved choosing to evade the potential harm that can come to them. I catch a glimpse of a little girl, no older than seven. She clutches her mother’s leg as she tries to hide her terrified face, wailing at the scene unfolding in front of her. She catches my stare, and the only thing I can think to do is mouth I’m sorry. How will her mother explain to her what she witnessed as she cries herself to sleep? How will she be able to live such a naive, innocent life knowing that this is the world that she has to grow up in?

All noises drown out, like after a bomb explodes. You can see what is around you, but all you hear is the ringing once the bomb has detonated. My ears feel clogged, until the sound of police sirens bursts through, the red and white lights shining through the sea of fighters. 

At risk of getting caught, I bolt. I can not afford to have my mom discovering that I participated in this protest. She was already against the idea, but once she watches the news, the first words to come out of her mouth will be I told you so.

I hide behind a building to see what happens to those brave enough to stay. Many are shoved to the ground, handcuffed, and thrown in the back of a squad car. The sight that terrifies me are the ones that are beaten before they receive the same treatment as the others. I take a shaky breath as I start to take the long journey home, knowing I will never be able to erase this memory.

I make it home before my mom, so I am able to hole up in my room without any questions, blaming it on a frustrating day of online schooling that I despise. I lay in bed, my mind racing a mile a minute. As I close my eyes to recover from what I have seen today, there is only one thought that occupies my brain. The sound the baton made as a two hundred pound police officer wailed it against the skull of a sixteen year old boy. 




It’s been a hectic two months since the protest. Stimulus checks were debated and released. Schools across the country finished the school year solely on computers. It was extremely difficult, might I add. Between the interruptions of failing internet connections, (and being kicked out of class because of it) and the hassle it was to ask teachers for help, the end of my junior year couldn’t have been worse. I miss being able to have a one-on-one conversation with my teachers and classmates. Having to set up meetings and work in break-out rooms only made learning tumultuous and demotivating. I do believe that there was a certain amount of trust and empathy established however. Teachers were able to understand the issues that students faced learning with technology better because they were forced to go through the same thing. I found that teachers were a lot more flexible with deadlines due to internet problems or if a family health crisis arisen. This made learning from home a little more bearable because I knew that my teachers were going to have my back and support me the whole way through.

The “curve” is flattening and there has been a vaccine created to prevent the spread of the virus. You would think with an extraordinary scientific breakthrough such as this that people would be on board to get the vaccine, but of course, nothing is ever that simple.

There are many people in the country who believe that you will still catch COVID even after receiving the vaccine, but there is no scientific evidence to prove this. It has been proved however, that if your body develops an immune response to vaccination, you may test positive on some antibody tests. These tests indicate that you may have some level of protection against the virus. None of the vaccines contain the live virus, it teachesins our immune system to recognize and fight the virus that causes COVID-19.  Yes, the vaccines have been approved for emergency use instead of being completely in the clear, but that does not make them any less effective. They are being released and used at a faster rate than most vaccines because we are currently dealing with a virus that has killed hundreds of thousands of people. 

There is also the belief that pregnant women should not get a vaccine because it causes infertility. When a pregnant woman gets the vaccine, the antibodies that the mother creates transfers to the fetus, temporarily protecting them as well. In fact, there have been clinical trials to test the reproductive health of pregnant women who receive the vaccine, and several women in the study have gotten pregnant. 

I understand why there is some hesitancy. It’s a new vaccine and people are afriad of what might happen to them. But it has been proven that they work, and personally, I can’t wait to get mine. I think that every person in American should get one because it is the responsible thing to do. Someone who is doing the right thing should not have to get sick because someone else isn’t.

The spread of COVID-19 has dramatically decreased, yet I am still stuck inside this cage. Stuck staring at the same four walls day in and day out. I have made a lot of changes to my room, just so I’m not forced to look at the same thing everyday. Instead of the pretty pink curtains I had, I swapped them out for some short beige ones to block the sunlight out in the morning. I don’t get enough sleep as it is, the last thing I need is to be woken up because it’s too light out. I repainted the walls white, just to make my room feel more spacious. Anything to feel more spacious. I also removed my posters. Feeling their eyes watching my every move began to freak me out. I cleaned out most of the meaningless possessions in my room- old cards I had saved from third grade, little knick knacks I no longer saw the point in, things like that. The one thing I could never get rid of are my books. They transport me to the places that I wish I could go during quarantine. My body may be trapped, but my mind can do the wandering for me. I flop out of bed to retrieve the grey hoodie from my mom, only to find it no longer fits. My frame has gotten smaller because I don’t see the need to eat much anymore, yet it is still too small. I toss it on the floor, prepared to tell my mom that it doesn’t fit. She feels the need to keep just about every single item that correlates to a certain memory. I don’t. I don’t know what she’ll do with it, but it’s not really my problem anymore.

I fall back into bed, rolling over and come face to face with my lava lamp. I blankly stare as the sacs of pus pockets drift around the lamp in a fruitless attempt to shatter the shell they are trapped in. I can empathize with those blobs. I know what it’s like to desire an escape. To try to break out of the molding you are stuck in. I empathize with them more than I ever have with another human being. 

Some days I don’t really understand the point of fighting anymore. Why fight to prevent yourself from getting sick with COVID and dying? We all die at some point anyway. If this is the way the world is going to be, why live in a world that you can’t enjoy?


I wake up, realizing that it’s morning already. The next morning. I never sleep for more than six  hours, let alone a whole entire day. It has been a pattern that I am developing, but it’s not a big deal. It gives me something to do, something to pass the time. Time passes so slowly. Slower than tick tock, tick tock. It feels like I am frozen in this time for the rest of my days. 

The rest of my minutes.

I trudge to the bathroom in an effort to do something other than lounge in bed all day. I settle in front of the vanity and examine the reflection looking back at me. My eyes have a slight yellow tint like when I get sick. The bags under them are miles long and inches deep, the most prominent feature on my face. My hair- a ratty nest, prime real estate for birds to flock to it at any moment to take residence in it. My skin possesses a deathlike pallor, and my face thinner like I am a walking skeleton. Do you want to know what I have to say to that?


Before this pandemic, I would have been disgusted at the person looking back at me. Now, I don’t care because I know that no one is going to see me, and if by some odd chance someone does, maybe they’ll see the person underneath. The girl behind the facade. Teenage girls have the unique ability to be able to display what they want you to and conceal what they don’t. We’re really good at it too. We make it look like everything is fine, but it isn’t. Maybe if someone sees me, they’ll actually mean it when they ask me how I’m doing, not ask because they are obligated to. 

I swing open the vanity to find what I’m craving. Pain killers. Will they finally kill my pain?

I crank open the bottle, and count to see there are fourteen snow white capsules left. 

That should do the trick.

Without a second thought, I open my mouth and dump them all in. For the most part they go down pretty easily. A couple get stuck in my throat, but they eventually work through my esophagus into the rest of my body. 

After a few minutes I start to feel lighter like I’m floating instead of walking. I start to spin, enjoying the feeling of euphoria, a sensation that I have had an insatiable hunger for. Or maybe I’m not spinning, but the room is. My ears clog, blocking every sound from entering. I don’t hear the driver’s side door close outside.

 I don’t hear my mom’s footsteps ascending the stairs as she talks to my grandmother on the phone.

I don’t hear the crack my head makes as I collapse onto the floor.

And I certainly don’t hear my mother sobbing as she pleas for me to wake up.


I stir awake to a mechanical beeping, the smell of disinfectants and laundry detergent pervading my nose. My eyelids weigh a ton, but I manage to force them to open to assess my surroundings. I am in my room I predict, being that the first thing I see are the same white four walls. The only thing that I can’t decipher is the source of the incessant beeping. I attempt to sit up, but fail. I glance down towards my wrist to discover there is a tattered leather strap restricting my movements. The sounds from what I know comprehend is a heart rate monitor becoming more frequent as my breathing becomes frantic as I try to free myself from the cuffs. This is my literal worst nightmare. When I was younger I watched a movie set in an asylum, and the main character that was (wrongfully) admitted woke up exactly like this. I was petrified and had nightmares about it for a whole two weeks afterwards. I open my mouth to scream- not for help, but just so someone knows I’m awake, but again I fail. My throat dry as a desert, my voice cracking in three different places. The only sound that manages to slip out is a squeak. I try to calm down a little bit, realizing that freaking out is going to help me whatsoever. The room is on the large side, spacious with me being its only occupant. I get a closer look at the walls, discerning that they are painted, not padded. Staring at the walls is ironically comforting. I hear the monitor start to slow down, indicating to the outside world that I am a calm individual, but my mind is racing at 150 miles per hour.

How did I get here?

Why didn’t the pills work?

Will I ever get out of here?

Will I get the chance to have a conversation with someone?

God or some other higher power must be listening because within seconds, my door creaks open. A young woman, about twenty-seven years old peeks her head through the space inbetween the door and its frame, and despite wearing a mask, I can tell that she is smiling at the fact that I am awake. “Well well well, looks like you’re finally awake,” she warmly greets me. “My name is Melanie and I am going to be taking care of you.”
I try my best to refrain from rolling my eyes. I’m in a hospital, and she is making it sound like she’s a waitress at a restaurant. “Why am I here?” I challenge. 

“Sweetie, do you remember what happened?” she softly asks, afraid that I might break just by the mere thought of commmitting suicide.  

“Of course I remember what happened. I may have tried to kill myself, but that doesn’t make me stupid,” I retort indignantly.

The doctor sighs, predicting that I am going to be difficult to work with during my stay. “I know that things are hard right now, especially for a young girl like you, but you need to know that things will only get better from here on out.” I doubt that. “Now, I’m going to need you to tell me what has been going on in that head of yours for the past few months.”

I take a moment to consider my answer. I feel like that is a really loaded question. What hasn’t been going through my head in the past few months: When is the pandemic going to end? When am I going to be able to be in the same room as my friends again? Will I ever be able to get out of this hospital? What happens if someone in my family is sick from COVID, and dies before I get out? Why didn’t it work?

When I decide on an acceptable answer I look into Melanie’s kind eyes, and they put me at an ease I haven’t felt in a long time. “I did it because I didn’t see the point anymore.”

“Of living?”

“Of existing. I feel like right now I am just a pawn on the board that is waiting for her turn to help win the game, but what if I don’t get that turn? What if I don’t want to play anymore?” I inquire, tears ready to spring from my eyes. 

“Well, that’s a great question but I need to ask, what game do you think you’re a part of?” she asks, grabbing a chair to sit closer, yet still six feet. I wished she would close the distance.

“I feel like someone is looking down on us playing some sick joke, laughing as we run like chickens with our heads cut off trying to stop this virus. I don’t feel like we have any say over what happens to us.”

“And you wanted that power back?” she slowly nods, showing she understands, but not acting like she knows me better than me. I weakly nod. “I have to warn you, I don’t believe in God, so I can’t say whether or not he is to blame for what is happening around us or is ‘laughing at us’ but I can say that everything you are feeling is completely understandable. You are a teenage girl. You are supposed to be exploring life and your identity, thinking about what you want to study in college, not whether or not I might have a deadly virus and transmit it to you. You have been robbed of something that never should be taken from you- your life. I will never know the stress that a teenager has to deal with in the middle of a pandemic, but I will try if you let me.”

I examine her face, trying to find any sign that she might be misleading me, any sign of carelessness- but I can’t. “I appreciate the help,” I relent, “but I don’t think there’s anything wrong. So I attempted suicide, that doesn’t mean that you should be wasting your time and resources on my when you have other patients to deal with.”

“Is that what you think?” she furrows her perfectly plucked eyebrows. “That you are a waste of time?”

“I don’t think I’m a waste of time. I think this,” I try to motion around the room with my hands, but they are still strapped to the bed, “is a waste of time.” 

She notices my struggle, and takes out the keys from her coat pocket. “I’m sorry about that,” she sheepishly apologizes. “These are just precautionary measures in case you were to awaken violently, or try to harm yourself.”

“Well you don’t need to worry about that, I’m a pretty chill person. Violence isn’t my thing.”

“If you’re not violent, then why hurt yourself in such a violent manner?”
“I already told you why,” I decide to shift the topic of conversation a little bit, already tired of this one. “Am I going to get to see my family soon?”

She deflates a little, knowing how important family can be to an individual’s recovery. “Unfortunately no. With the amount of people with COVID in this hospital we can not permit any visitors on the premises due to risk of infection.”

I feel dejected, but understand. I should expect this; I don’t know why I even asked. 

She must notice the look of disappointment on my face because she chooses to speak up after a moment of silence. “I’m sure you’re wondering when you will be released, but that all depends on how much you decide to cooperate. I’m not going to force you to tell me anything you don’t want to, but your parents are worried sick about you. They told me to keep you in here for as long as I deem necessary, and I won’t sign off on any release forms until I believe that I won’t see you in this room or in a body bag, okay?”

Again I just nod, not really knowing how to respond to something like this. I never thought I would put myself into a situation like this, so I never mentally prepared myself to handle it; not that I should have felt the need to. 

The chair scrapes across the floor and she moves it back to its original position in the corner of the room, and gives me a sympathetic smile before she proceeds to the door.

“Wait,” I call out, raising my hand up into the air like that would magically stop her from moving. “I know I can’t leave the hospital, but will I at least be able to leave my room, walk around a bit? The isolation and staring at the same four walls everyday is what got me in here in the first place,” I reluctantly admit. 

The sympathetic smile shifted into a slight frown, but she recovers quickly. She’s quiet for a minute, unsure of how to answer. “I can’t have you straying too far, but I think something can be arranged.

I smile in thanks as I watch her exit, leaving me to my thoughts for the rest of the day.


It’s been a week since I’ve been in this hospital, and Melanie and I have gotten closer. Maybe it’s because she’s a doctor and it’s a part of her job to get people to trust her and open up, or maybe it’s the fact that we both haven’t had someone to talk to about anything other than COVID for a long time. We tell each other stories about our childhood, our lives before the pandemic. I told her the story about Jeremy, and she comes back at me with a story about how she hit a girl twice her size in the face with a stick, just because she pulled her hair. She has made this “vacation” bearable, but I still haven’t been out of bed yet.

It seems, today is the day that changes.

Melanie comes into my room with a padded black wheelchair. 

“What’s this for?” I eye it and her quizzically.

“This is just protocol,” she smirks.

“Protocol for what?” I question, confusion and nerves bubbling inside me.

“Protocol for when we allow a patient with your… condition… to roam the hospital,” she hesitates at condtition. I can tell it makes her uncomfortable to say, but luckily it doesn’t bother me as much as she probably thinks it does. I’m aware that some people view those who attempt suicide as ill, and if that’s true, I’m already getting better. I think it was a momentary lapse in judgement sort of thing. I mean- wait. Did she just say that I can leave my room? The idea of getting out of this hell-hole causes my nerves to morph into excitement. Not that a hospital is all that exciting, but it’s something. 

I climb into the chair and shift around until I get comfortable. Melanie opens the door, and the smell of disinfecting spray only gets stronger. The lights are somehow brighter than the ones in my room. I never thought that was possible, yet here we are. She slowly pushes me through the hall, periodically stopping to introduce to some of the coworkers she gossips about. I feel like I’m a part of society again. It’s a feeling that I don’t ever want to end. 

I notice that there are signs plastered all over the walls, telling the staff to remain six feet apart and wear their PPE at all times. We must pass by 30 hand sanitizing stations in the short journey we have been on.

I don’t know how far into the hospital we venture, but I begin to notice that the staff is sporting a lot more protective layers, and the beeping that I heard when I first woke up here increases in the amount and volume. We come to a complete stop as another doctor catches Melanie’s attention, inquiring about a patient. 

Then, the world exploded.

A heart monitor wails as a hoard of doctors rushes towards an elderly man, lying intubated in his bed. My body goes rigid, hypothesizing what the outcome of this alarming event will be. They circle around him, assessing his vitals. I would like to think that this man is waking up, and the sounds from the heart monitor are indicating that he has an increase in his breathing, but we can’t always get what we want. The doctors are making sure that there is not a kink in his breathing tube, they are trying to adjust the amount of water in IV to ensure that he is hydrated, but there’s no solution to what is happening inside his body. They grab the defibrillator and attach the paddles to his body, ready to release the electric shock that might restart his heart.

“Clear!” I faintly hear as there are other doctors surrounding us now trying to catch a glimpse of the scene unfolding. He jolts upward, but remains unconscious. They shock him again, only to get the same result.

I shift my eyes to the doctor holding the defibrillator paddles, and watch as he deflates in defeat. “Time of death 11:31 a.m.” he reluctantly barks.

Shivers travel up my spine watching as they place the sheet over his body. Nausea starts to rise up into my throat, ready to pour out at any moment. Melanie notices my reaction, wordlessly steering me away from the scene. She pushes me in silence back to my room, the weight of what we just witnessed looming over us like dark storm clouds.

I mindlessly walk to my bed and sit down, staring blankly at the wall in front of me.

“Alissa,” Melanie calls, concerned, filling her voice, “Are you okay? What a dumb question,” she scolds herself. “Of course you’re not okay. No civilian would be okay after witnessing something that horrifying.” 

If only she knew about the protest. I was going to tell her, I was. Something has been preventing me though. Maybe I’m worried she’ll tell my parents that it was the cause of my “breakdown” and I’ll be in even more hot water than I know I already am. 

“I’m okay,” I unconvincingly reply. I’m hoping she will accept my answer. Or see it as an attempt just to get her to leave. I’ll take either option.

“Okay. If you need anything, and I mean anything, please just hit that button and I’ll be in here faster than Barry Allen,” she smiles, trying to use my love of superheroes to lift my spirits.

It’s sweet that she cares, but I won’t need anything from her. I don’t need anything from anyone.

I just wonder how his family will react. Not being able to say goodbye to someone you love is world shattering. It was so sudden. There was no gasp for breath or any last words to his family, he was just gone. Alive one moment, dead the next. I hope that I will never have to be in that position in my life. At least not in the near future. The pain that they are going to feel will be unimaginable, unbearable, and incomprehensible. I now know what my mom must have felt, see me unconscious on the bathroom floor like that. She must’ve had a look of pure devastation and fear on her face, the same one his family will wear when they hear the news.




It’s been a year, and I’ve been released from the hospital. A lot has happened since my admittance. Joe Biden beat Donald Trump in the election, sparking an insurrection at the capitol on January 6. There have been more vaccines approved, so more people across the country have been vaccinated- including yours truly. I received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, and I had a horrible fever, headache and stomach ache for about 24 hours, and then I was fine. That’s the main reason people refuse to get the vaccine, because they don’t want to get sick. If someone asked me would I rather have a few symptoms for twenty-four hours and never get COVID versus being sick for months and possibly dying;I would choose the former in a heartbeat.

My senior year was also online, but Melanie advocated for me to be able to go to prom and graduation, something I would never get to experience from being in the hospital, but turning eighteen allowed me to sign myself back in. I found myself a lot safer and more content in the hospital. Being away from my family sucked, but they understood that it was beneficial for my mental health to stay there. 

There have been multiple variants circulating the country, but luckily the vaccines are proven effective in preventing infection. The most deadly variant so far is the newest- the delta variant. It is affecting a lot of vaccinated people. It is difficult to track because a person can be walking around asymptomatically, and still have the virus because no symptoms are apparent. Due to this, the rate of infection has increased again, many states returning to the mask mandate indoors, regardless of vaccination. I think it is a good thing that the states have stepped in, because the CDC was too quick in saying that vaccinated people didn’t need to wear masks anymore, and have been too slow in their response to this variant. We’re essentially starting back at square one again. The rates are rapidly increasing and the government is dividing itself into two different sides (whether you should wear masks or not). They are not seeing mask mandates and vaccinations as things for the common good, and the people are following them blindly. They are viewing it as a personal front to them. It’s not to make you feel like you need to be forced to do something, but people are dying and wearing masks is one of the best forms of protection. 

I don’t know what’s going to happen in the next six months, but I know one thing: this is far from over. In order to stop the spread of the virus and its variants, we need to change the way our country is run now. Instead of voint for someone based on the letter next to their name, we need to vote based on their merits and skills. We need to evaluate what they can do to better our country so that something like this won’t happen again. This generation needs to fix the egregious errors that those before us made, to make the world a better place to live in. We can fix it, as long as we fight for what is right for the common good, instead of for the left or the right. Being American is more about our individual pride, but it is about forging a country in which we can all be proud of.