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pandemic

Reunion

He was doing the dishes, midmorning, when he noticed the white car drive by, and drive by again. A quiet street, on the way to nowhere. At eleven, the school bus would show up, to deliver lunches to the children who couldn’t go to school. Otherwise, almost no cars he didn’t recognize.

Illustration by Lauren Simkin Berke

Mutations

Is it possible to understand the persistent lag in vaccination rates as a function of failed metaphor? That is to say, as a failure of language—the language of data, the language of science, the language of political rhetoric (to name just a few vocabularies)—to meet individuals at their particular coordinates on the social map? The virus and our national response to it has been figured and refigured.

Second Wave

This past February, I hired a cab for a pandemic-fatigued trip with a friend to the Himalayan hills in Himachal Pradesh, down the Old Manali road. It was a drowsy afternoon, the summer heat landing thick on the windows. My friend and I drifted in and out of sleep as our driver wound along circuitous roads. Listening to old Hindi songs, I started counting the Semal trees on the roadside, perched on the hills. Also called silk cotton trees, they blossom at the end of winter: leafless trees holding vibrant clutches of big red flowers.

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.