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COVID-19

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.

Vendimia

My first year in Europe, I moved when the seasons changed. I spent autumn in Castilla-La Mancha, winter in Barcelona, spring at the foot of the Pyrenees. I had moved to Spain to apprentice with winemakers, and I was following the cycle of a grapevine. Late fall, when I arrived, was time for cellar work: bottling, racking, packing, and shipping. In February, when the ground had frozen, we pruned the vines with electric clippers. Springtime was for removing excess leaves from the vine; the sticky summer months were for watering and upkeep. Long-awaited was September, time of vendimia—the harvest.

Notes on a Ghost Town

December 3, 2020

 1.I made plans to move to Southern Illinois from Chicago in the summer, when people told me it would be drippingly humid, figuring I’d get the worst season of the year out of the way first. Baptism by summer. In the more temperate fall, I’d [...]

Basic Needs

December 3, 2020

Looking back on 2020 feels a lot like looking back on two years at once. Or maybe it’s two countries—or, more precisely, dissonant ideas of a country I thought I knew well enough, even with a healthy skepticism, but whose transformation and revelations have made even that skepticism seem naïve. Against the backdrop of a malignant presidency, the year began with familiar emergencies, from environmental (wildfires) to humanitarian (immigration) to diplomatic (Iran). Cut to spring and a national reckoning with the brutal realities of Black life in America, coupled with the existential threat of a virus that by Thanksgiving, in this country alone, had infected almost thirteen million people and killed more than a quarter million. 

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.

Truth’s Empire

September 8, 2020

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

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