On Zoom

I’ve never used Zoom before tonight. I’m not sure I ever want to do it again. But for forty-five minutes or so, I got to see my sister and her children, my brother-in-law, a pair of sibling cousins of mine who were central to my youth and remain important to me, my mother, and three other cousins who have been directly affected by the virus. One came down with symptoms after a business trip to Colorado and tested positive. Her sister, who hasn’t been tested, brought her to the clinic. This morning I learned that their mother has it, too. She’s running a fever and was visibly fearful about the possibility of being put on a ventilator. Everybody is frightened, and for legitimate reasons.

My sister reported that a neighbor insisted to her that the virus was a hoax. I don’t know whether that neighbor was aware that my sister has been fighting serious health conditions for more than a decade, and is immunocompromised. I do know that that neighbor lives in Cranford, New Jersey, a town with residents who make much of their affluence and education, and who are supposed to know better and act better than Internet trolls. I’m further aware that this neighbor is only one of many who continue to treat this epidemic as a joke. If my sister is taken to the hospital with virus symptoms, would this neighbor, and the hundreds of thousands like her, wave it away, blame it on her history of illness, and continue to behave like nothing is wrong? Would she do the same if it happened to Hilary?

Life is an underlying condition. Life is all too fragile. If you’ve made it to your forties with nothing major going wrong, bless you: you’ve been fortunate, and I hope you remain so. If you’ve developed a medical problem that makes you susceptible to the worst this virus can do, you are still worth preserving. Because this is no hoax and no drill, and tonight, the fog is closing in on my friends and family. The New York Times just ran a story about a 92 year old man in a nursing home, terrified and alone, begging his family to bring him home. The picture of the man looked familiar to me. I read further and realized to my horror that it was my high school drama coach. You, me, and everyone we know: the face of this crisis is mine and yours.