He rolled over in bed as the alarm went off for the tenth time.
“I am going to die,” he thought to himself.
He thought that thought every time he woke up. At this point in his life, it was almost reassuring. Still, he dragged himself out of bed and got in the shower.
The day awaited.
The city was empty. Almost empty. A sharp wind swept through the downtown core, forcing him to pull his jacket close against it. The sun was bright and intense, yet when he stepped into shadow, the temperature dropped instantly.
The change in the world was most noticable in the core. Buildings were mostly deserted, manned by the slimmest of work crews and security. The bus drivers of the public transit system were the most obvious, in their matching uniforms. They gathered were they could, singly, in pairs or less frequently, in larger groups. They were extremely noticable, like a cult perhaps. They always acknowledged each other with a nod or a word.
They were required to be in the downtown core but there was nowhere for them to BE in there.
He coughed suddenly. That old worrying cough. It had nothing to do with the current crisis sweeping the land, but he cast a furtive glance around to see if anyone noticed. An approaching elderly man caught his eye, then the old man intentionally adjusted his face mask in response and provided extra space to separate them.
A sensible precaution, he thought, as the old man wandered by.
He was sick, it was true. It had nothing to do with the global pandemic sweeping the world however. The cough was likely from growing up in the house of a chain smoker. His was a mental illness, a disease of the mind, of the soul. It would take his life as sure as any cancer though, if he was not careful.
The social restrictions in place were meant to keep the disease from spreading, to limit it’s spread and keep it to a manageable level. That meant keeping people at a distance. Staying away from them. He had no problem with this. This was his normal. Reaching out was always the hardest part for him, and now he couldn’t do that.
He was drowning inside himself.
He looked up at the sky, squinting against the hard glare of the sun. The universe spread out before him, a hard and indifferent place, vast and unknowable. He was insignificant, he knew that, accepted that. A mote contemplating infinity. Strangely enough, this thought brought him peace.
Wars erupted continually across the planet. Civil unrest grew here and abroad. Illnesses swept through the world. He would survive these, or he wouldn’t. He understood that his actions didn’t matter in the long run. He could still get sick, or shot, or jailed.
So, he wore a mask. He washed and sanitized his hands regularly and maintained as much social distance as was required. He also kept his mind open to the racial unrest that was happening out there. He listened, and tried to understand.
He was hopeful, at the end of the day. The world would get better. It would survive this. Or it wouldn’t.
The next morning, he woke up and thought to himself,
“I am going to die.”
Then he pulled the blankets over his head.