February is almost over, it is Monday at 8 am and I hear the news, COVID 19 this, that… The fresh coffee smell spreads from the heart of my little apartment to the rest of it. My dad, mom, and sister rush to get ready and go to work. We talk before we go while grabbing something to eat. We hug and kiss and wish for the day to be a great one. Everything is like usual, the hope of a new day, the expectation of living life to the fullest. However, when I get to work my peers and I started discussing what is going on. The air is filled with sadness despite it being a sunny day. The atmosphere is tense because of how heavy the uncertainty is. All of us did not expect what was coming. I was certainly not ready for it.
Suddenly, I was working from home. Now, almost everything was online. My coworkers and classmates became miniature Zoom pictures instead of faces. Instead of a ‘hello, how are you?’ now we greet with a ‘hey, you are muted.’ My mother and father still had to work out there and my sister and I were constantly terrified. Friends died, family members got sick here and back in the Dominican Republic. All we were able to do was pray. Our mornings were not as cheerful. My mother and father got ready slowly, they were afraid that this was the day they’ll get sick. The day their lives could become shorter. I did not want to get the coffee ready anymore. Instead, I drank tea for my nerves. If you know me, one thing you might not forget is my smile but I did not smile as often anymore. All is like a really bad nightmare from which you cannot escape because you experience sleep paralysis and the fear eats your soul with delight.
The day we all feared finally arrived. Despite all my mother’s precautions, she contracted the virus. She got so sick she couldn’t stand on her own. She passed out in the hallway and for a terrible and extremely long moment that felt like ages we thought she died. She was pale, paler than the moon. Her ivory skin seemed bathed in chlorine. My heart stopped beating when I thought hers did. We were all at home, we all ran when we saw her fall. We all felt like our life was falling apart without being able to do anything about it. It was the worst moment of my life and just remembering it hurts like a knife piercing my stomach.
She regained consciousness after a few minutes. We called 911 and they came half an hour later. My father was in the realm of despair. My sister tried to stay calm but every time my mother closed her eyes, she seemed ready to scream with all her might. I held my mother’s hand all the time. She was cold and I prayed that our creator would have mercy and leave her to us some more time. Her breathing was forced, ours too. At that moment, you do not think if you are going to catch it. You do not think of anything other than waking up from that nightmare. The paramedics arrived, they couldn’t do much, they couldn’t take her to the hospital because they were full and once there, she was at risk of getting worse. We took care of her at home and thank God she went back to be herself again. I am so grateful she recovered and I am so sorry for all those that did not.
The Spring 2020 semester was a huge challenge. I had to continue assisting my classes online and working remotely while taking care of my mom. I had to read and write and help students when all I wanted to do was be beside my mom making sure she was okay and comforting her and myself by being there. Back in February this year was filled with plans and trips. Now, I am just trying to stay hopeful and complete the assignments on time.
Almost every day I received an email starting with “Dear… I hope this email finds you well.” It certainly did not find me and many others well. But what else can we say? What else can we hope for? In these unprecedented and trying times, like is often said, we better stick to hope as much as we can because we are not only at risk physically, our psychological health is at risk too. The past few months were filled with so much. Even now, when I thought things were going to be better, we are still facing one setback after another. This year should get the alias “emotional rollercoaster” or at least that is what I think and feel.
The Fall 2020 semester started and I am looking at it with all the hope and positivity at my disposition. Being online can be tough sometimes but at least we are able to do it. We should be grateful for that, especially because many people here in the US and in the rest of the world are not. I got myself in all the programs I was able to. This semester will be filled with a lot of things to do and I am so excited about being able to start new things. I am really interested in them and meeting people even if is online. This is part of the learning experience process, sometimes the format changes, but we should never stop learning.
All the injustices happening against us blacks. All the physical and emotional isolation. All the struggles we have to overcome to be behind a screen and do the work. All the inspiration caused by pain that drives us to create something beautiful but at a really high cost. All the hugs and kisses we are not able to give. All the handshakes and greetings we are not able to do. Technology is a beautiful thing indeed, but will never replace human contact and warmth. I am hoping for things to get better soon. Please join me doing the same. In the meantime, we will meet through zoom. I hope this message finds you well.