I’ve never had a blank page stare at me before today. It’s been a few minutes since I titled this and sat down to write a threnody to those who’ve died because of the Coronavirus. I can hear my mother shouting at my brother for playing with his cricket bat—a feat that on another day would’ve had her filming the game on her mobile phone. I can’t hear my grandmother from inside my room but that’s because she is quiet except for the occasional quivering breath she exhales. She is usually quiet, it’s nothing new. But today her eyes are watering
My father is working on his laptop, constantly shifting from his office work to the group chat for COVID Volunteers. He’s been constantly checking for any message of help required, wanting to reach them faster, even before the notification will inform him to.
I don’t remember much from my online class today. I remember the last class being physics and my teacher, as he ended the call, said: take care, have a good day. I cling on to those few words, 'have a good day' drawing any strength possible from them. I wish him the same, and all my teachers, and all my classmates, and everyone I’ve ever known, and everyone I will never know—but I don’t say it.
I know how it feels struggling to breathe. It’s an excruciating pain in the lungs or sometimes a dull affliction. It’s as though a knife has been placed in front of the ribs and it pierces through with every strangled inhalation. It’s bricks on top of the lungs, the lungs themselves turning into concrete, the weight of a broken building and sometimes all of this together. But this is what I’ll tell you, or someone with asthma or pneumonia will. What they felt, they don’t live to tell.
“What happened?” my little brother asks. No one answers.
“What happened?” he prompts again. “What happened?”
Three voices snap at him in unison after the third prompting. Mother asks him to stop repeating himself. Father shouts from the hall saying they don’t have to tell him everything. My grandmother, her shrill voice heard for the first time all evening, pushes him to go sleep. I can see my brother struggling to bite back saying that it isn’t bedtime yet.
Father has lost a junior colleague. Mother and grandmother have lost family. I think about all the people that lost themselves to this virus. The ones with dreams they couldn't fulfill, the ones with promises they couldn't keep, the ones that died without meeting their loved ones, but most importantly the ones that didn't have loved ones to meet. I mourn for them all.
Here’s to the mother that died leaving behind her little children wondering where Amma is. Here’s to the father that didn’t get to say goodbye to his daughter. Here’s to the grandparents whose stories no one will be hearing anymore. Here’s to the students that wanted to change the world, to the writers that had a story to tell, to the artists that left the canvas half-finished.
- Marc Lipsitch