Voices

While I Waited — A COVID-19 Christmas Story

While I Waited — A COVID-19 Christmas Story

While I waited in my car in the mall parking lot, I tried not to think about COVID. I thought about my friends, my dogs, my ex-girlfriends, dumplings (pan sautéed, not steamed), the new standing desk I got myself for Christmas, online dating, the most recent episode of the sci-fi show I was binging, whether or not the chocolate-dipped strawberries I ordered would arrive before Christmas. But my mind kept returning to COVID, like a baseball player who realizes he tried to steal a base a bit too late and then decides to double back. It was Thursday, Christmas Eve, and I had been exposed on Monday; still no symptoms of the virus.

A change in fortune

A change in fortune

I met him when he joined a program I was facilitating in an Ulster County prison. Although he was younger than me, he looked ancient — an old man, old before his time. He hobbled into the room, in pain from sciatica with his 55 years locked up in airless spaces, with minimal good food and health care, bad teeth showing through a wane smile, sparse gray hair falling on his shoulders.  Resignation and abdication were the expressions he wore, a surrender born of hopelessness.