I Think I Am Still Alive

Here is what will happen in the first year of the pandemic

Nina Szarka
Human Parts

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Woman holding a drink at a bar alone.
Photo: Erik Witsoe/EyeEm/Getty Images

It is March and I am standing behind the pine of the dive bar I work at holding a spray bottle full of sanitizer. I have cleaned everything I can think of that has ever been touched. The light switches. The doorknobs. The undersides of the stools. The skin of my hands is cracking from the frequency of antibacterial soap and I do not know it yet, but the smell of hand sanitizer will soon permeate every part of my life. Someday when I make lists of my olfactory memories, Clorox will fall somewhere between jasmine and whiskey, and it will evoke feelings of comfort and terror in a confusing malaise that will rise up into my chest in waves.

We are not wearing masks yet. We don’t know about masks. We don’t know much of anything; we just know that people are dying, or it’s just another flu, or it’s the end of the world. What we do know is that we are waiting.

It is March and each day we wait. Everything else we do is a backdrop for waiting. Waiting to know anything. Waiting for anything to happen. We have no language for anything that is about to happen. In a year, we still will not.

Entire aisles at the grocery store are already barren. Italy has already shut down. We are Americans, though, frontline servants to the gods of the…

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Nina Szarka
Human Parts

Apocalypse carnival mistress, essayist, and animated story maker.