Dear Pandemic (from the Dystopian Letters)

Dear Pandemic (from the Dystopian Letters)

Dear Pandemic:

We could ill afford better circumstances than this attic to stow away and try to ride it out and hide it out from your viral encumbrances sweeping across U.S. North America. The darkness in the upper level of this edifice are yet a reflection of ourselves with each one of us maintaining a distance of several feet to avoid infecting the one to the other. The sloping wood of the attic ceiling forms a triangle above the large rectangular wooden floor, and the flickering screens stand in the middle throwing shadows against the walls. When the faulty wi-fi adjusts, the screens offer statistics of various sorts – how many millions infected, how many dead, and not just here in the States but around the world. Around the world is indeed how you would have it. Not content to stay in one place, you have devastated Europe, Asia, the impoverished of Africa and Latin America, and now us.

Thankfully, in the attic we can escape the medical police who scour the streets for the seemingly sick and administer the tests. If we test positive, we will be segregated in the large tents with their rows of cots where we are forced to lie out our last days amongst the coughing and wheezing of the similarly sick. We will be trapped by our own pneumonic lungs, in the sweaty hospital gowns, until we hopefully recover or are covered in a makeshift body bag and loaded on the trailer trucks.

Except for the exhausted healthcare workers, everything has ceased. The hands of Southeast Asia have stopped sewing our clothes and making our shoes. The African children mining for cobalt have put away their trowels, and the car and phone batteries that depend on these chemical elements can no longer be assembled in North America or Japan. The laborers in car manufacturing in Latin America are sheltered as the ships that import car parts drift at sea.

Everything is closed. The offices that tower to the sky in the skyscrapers, the schools, churches, restaurants, theaters, public gathering places of all sorts. The stores that allowed us to window shop and buy filling our closets and chest of drawers to the point of bloating are now shuttered. Shut tight. The airports are vacant vestiges of international possibility.

The attic protects us from the debt police. We owe our entire futures to college loans, credit cards, car notes, and late payments for the apartments and houses we long ago abandoned. Utility bills. Balance, fees, interest. If caught, the debt police grip their clubs to hammer and humiliate us in the street, shouting to remind us that we owe the fortunate not forced to lie on the cots in the makeshift hospital tents.  

The screens flicker and fade offering national and world stats on the ill and dead. We hover, incapacitated, each in a corner, maintaining our distance so your death doesn’t spread. The stats recall the consequences of Pandemics 1918 and 2020. But just as we look on, we likewise look away and attempt to forget. Forget the numbers, forget our hunger, forget the possibilities.

-Audrey Shipp

 

AUDREY SHIPP

AUDREY SHIPP

Born in Los Angeles, Audrey Shipp is an essayist and poet whose most recent writing appears in "Linden Avenue Literary Journal," August 2018 and "A Gathering Together," Spring 2018. Her bilingual and trilingual poetry appeared in "Americas Review (Arte-Publico Press)" which was formerly published by the University of Houston. She teaches English and ESL at a public high school in Los Angeles.

Born in Los Angeles, Audrey Shipp is an essayist and poet whose most recent writing appears in "Linden Avenue Literary Journal," August 2018 and "A Gathering Together," Spring 2018. Her bilingual and trilingual poetry appeared in "Americas Review (Arte-Publico Press)" which was formerly published by the University of Houston. She teaches English and ESL at a public high school in Los Angeles.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *