And then there was a vaccine.
People stopped talking in numbers. They stopped wearing masks and started hugging and visiting again. Everything that was closed, opened. Except for what remained closed.
At this, people shrugged and looked the other way. What more could they do?
Some began to wonder if it was ever really not safe. The places that stayed open and the people who didn’t stop, seemed no worse than those that shut down for a time. Some people ignored all the fuss, went out, ignored the numbers, the signs and thrived. Some people heeded all the warnings, locked down, masked up, and still got sick.
It made no sense. Not in the beginning. Not in the middle. Not towards the end. People muddied science and facts. Evidence felt clearer in neighborly anecdotes.
The nightly news broadcasts moved on. We would all be fine. We always were fine. Except for those that weren’t.
People went back to normal, happy to erase the term “new normal” from their lexicon. The Year the World Stopped just turned out to be another set of days.
The world continued to melt and burn and freeze and flood and dry up. The winds screamed. Injustices continued. People shrugged and looked the other way. What more could they do?
Pockets of trouble lingered. People in other places were getting sick. Enough to suggest normal was still not quite. Closed borders in faraway places. Blotted maps. Masked airports. Empty Olympic grandstands. A hushed warning: we might never really be safe.
But people continued pushing forward. Crowding beaches. Riding roller coasters. Flying around the world. Buying things they didn’t need. They told themselves this the way it’s always been. Viruses are born to mutate. What more could they do?
When all this started it felt like it was going to be some kind of turning point. Something would have to give: our outdated system of education, our burden on working parents, our addiction to busyness, our inexplicable refusal to do as little as possible to stop the destruction of the planet.
In those scary first few weeks we’d hear the jingle of the alone together commercials and feel a moment of hope. But in the end, they stopped airing the commercials.
We were never really together. How could we be when the pandemic affected us so disparately? People died while others couldn’t get pedicures. People lost jobs. Struggled to get their kids educated. Lost spouses. Lost sleep. Lost perspective. Gained perspective. Gained weight. Gained courage. The impact of Covid was a spotlight, determined to illuminate our differences.
In the end, it didn’t matter that it was a disease – unable to distinguish political affiliation or race or religion or any other man made construct. Unable to discriminate or judge or reward.
Not everyone got the vaccine. Not everyone wore masks. People became more and more convinced they were right. Others were wrong. We didn’t come together.
We each struggled to not buckle under the weight of the pandemic. What more could we do?
The end dangled in front of us, just out of reach. If only we grabbed hands and held tight, maybe we’d reach the end.