Each night, I have trouble falling asleep. I’m not restless, I’m not scared. I’m waiting. Waiting for the sound of an accelerator hit too hard on the corner of my street, waiting for the bumps of tires along the potholes, waiting for the light to creep in through the window-shades casting its long shadows against my wall. When I was younger, I would count the headlights like sheep as they danced along the walls.
Instead, the streets are empty. I take the trash out and see two rats huddled under the front tire of a Chevy that hasn’t moved in three weeks. I don’t see any people. The streets are quiet, the only sound a steady click from the walk signal as it turns from red to white to red, with no one crossing.
Mom keeps a box of gloves and a sleeve of masks by the door. Two weeks ago, I was told masks wouldn’t help. I guess we were either wrong that they didn’t work or desperate for something that would. We get groceries from the supermarket, waiting in six-foot staggered lines. The line stretches past the front of the Christian Science Reading Room, and I look in their window. Propped on a bench is a promise that faith will cure all ails. I point to it for mom with an outstretched orange hand. I chuckle a bit at the thought, but I wish I had that faith, or knew who to put it in.
I don’t like to read the news anymore. Is that wrong? Mom says that if one of us got it, we’d assume the other did too. I think of the time she had the flu. She sweat her clothes through each time she put them on, so she stopped changing. Her fever only got worse. Dizzy, glazed eyes. I got scared towards the end, when it wasn’t safe to take any more Nyquil but what she’d taken wasn’t helping. I didn’t know what to do. The news says this is nothing like the flu, that it’s worse. And Mom is older now. She says there are 80,000 cases in New York City. I tell her to stop checking the news.
I’m turning eighteen in a month. I would’ve been at school when it happened. I still will be, technically. Everything’s online now, all PDFs and MP4s. I text my friend a joke about online class, forgetting that across the world my morning is his night. I realize I never said goodbye. I didn’t think I had to. We’re graduating in two months. We still will be, technically.
I know I should go to bed. Or, to sleep. I’ve been in bed all day. Instead I’m up late, watching the windows, waiting for the lights to come.