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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 [...]

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.

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. 

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.

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