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coronavirus

The Work of Hands

 1.We’ve been here twenty-six days, seven of us and the dog, and everyone needs a haircut. When we left New York for my in-laws’ farm in early March, we imagined we might be gone a week or two, and that at least in a rural area we could main [...]

The Year of Separation

The anniversary of the coronavirus pan- demic isn’t marked by a single date so much as a grim series of them, from the mysterious illnesses reported in December 2019 in Wuhan, China, to the first recorded cases of COVID-19 in January 2020, and all the dates marking its ruthless progression since. The anniversaries are staggered depending on where you were last year—London or Singapore, Seattle or Madrid. My own memory takes me back to March 5, 2020, trying to stay calm on a flight to New York. I landed maskless—nearly everyone was, astonishing in hindsight—with news of eighteen cases of COVID-19 just north of the city. I stayed holed up in my hotel room for the most part, wiping every surface, watching the news obsessively. When I did go out, I walked—thirty blocks, forty blocks—too anxious to take the subway or a cab. By the time I flew home, three days later, cases had topped a hundred statewide, with the first one in the city itself. My last night there, several of us went out for a nervous but spirited dinner. It was the last time I hugged a friend; it’s been a year and counting since.

Truth’s Empire

September 8, 2020

This is a story about money and statistics, and it begins with three nuns.

The 2020

September 8, 2020

We were passengers forced to jump into the water when our ship, the 2020, after years of creaking, cracked in half and sank down into the darkness. The ship was long thought to be beautiful. For it gleamed in the sunlight. And it gleamed in the moonlight. It throbbed like a beacon, could be seen across great distances. And since it was like a beacon it was taken for a beacon. 

A Taxonomy of Mask Cheats

September 8, 2020

The face mask, that simple piece of cloth, has become fraught territory. Over the summer, Americans began reading the use or absence of a mask as a political statement, a commentary on individual freedom, an invitation to a fight. Our president and his cadre were agonizingly slow to wear them, often casting the mask as a sign of weakness. Their bare faces have come to symbolize the administration’s negligence and denial.

After the Old City

Lahore is Lahore, the saying goes. For the twelve million who, until recently, made their way through its streets every day, that is all that needs to be said. For the others—the foreign, the displaced—it is an idea, resisting definition. Before the pandemic emptied the streets, I landed in a city I could still move through freely.

<i>Tiger King</i>. Directed by Eric Goode and Rebecca Chaiklin. Netflix, 2020. 8 episodes

The Art of Watching

Early in January, a few days into the New Year, I sat with four students on the ninth floor of a Twenty-Third Street Manhattan building. I have two dominant memories of our week together: The first is of the forbearance with which they withstood my raging head cold; the places they found to look while I filled tissue after tissue, stuffing various pills, sprays, and lozenges into my face, inflicting on them a six-day wrath that should have been mine alone. Grumpy and overmedicated, midweek I told a colleague, because she asked, that I felt like a jungle cat was sitting on my face.

Degrees of  Loneliness

“No man is an island, entire of itself.” So observed John Donne, memorably, in 1624, a year before bubonic plague beset London, killing some forty thousand people. No man is an island—unless isolated, a cognate word whose currency manifests in the term self-isolation, the act of removing oneself from public life until, in this instance, the current plague, a virulent strain of coronavirus, has lifted.

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