by an 11th grade writer
She walks home from her long shift at the hospital. She can feel the cool mid-autumn breeze pass through her, each gust of wind strong enough to knock her over. She inhales deeply, trying to regain some scent of the season through her mask.
She climbs up the painstaking stairs of her home, fiddling with keys in front of her apartment door. She steps inside, leaving her bright blue sneakers outside. She begins to perform the routine she had become accustomed to, as it was created months prior, the steps inscribed in her head almost like a poem:
Clothes off, open hamper.
Pajamas and slippers on.
Peel off the mask one side at a time,
carefully! to avoid coming into contact with her face.
Rub sore ears and
properly discard the commodity.
Phone out of plastic bag, the same little bag that
had been placed near the door yesterday morning.
She then waltzes over to the sink, thoroughly feeling the aches of the day wash through her. But this is necessary, no time to be lazy. She takes the next few minutes to clean her hands and face.
Okay, she thinks, I can relax.
bzz, bzzz, bzzzz! her phone vibrates viciously, demanding for attention. She picks it up. Her heart plunges as she reads the news she missed while attempting to work.
“COVID-19 continues to increase across four boroughs.”
“Schools close again, forcing many students to continue remote learning.”
“A large group of people have been arrested for hosting mass events.”
She sighs and slams her phone on the desk. Looking around her apartment, she immediately imagines the parties she could have been having. She would invite every family member and distant cousin she could think of. But, she was staring at an empty living room.
A heaving feeling sweeps through her, and a lump rises to her throat. She glances at the mirror, and does a double take. How strange the monstrous creature in the mirror appears to be. Foreign green irises, with dark pupils begging for help. Olive skin engraved with fresh wrinkles and mask lines. Forgotten dimples deepen as her face crumples. Tears slide down her face, as she spots a sharpie nearby. Her body shook with heavy sobs. Dejectedly, she writes,
HAVE I DONE ENOUGH?
Large bold letters shine in the mirror, envisioning the question that has haunted her for the last few months. She continues to write this, until her weary arms drop in disbelief. Her fingers push into her face, trying to erase the images of pain. She backs away, bumping into the wall behind her. Sliding down the wall, she feels her body slump. She lets out a wail, screaming, wanting to release the mental and physical exhaustion she had faced. The shouts echo, but stay in her vicinity.
but, had she done enough?
for if she had done a little more, gone the extra mile and worked a little harder, maybe she could have saved a life or two.
“Sorry I couldn’t save you,” she whispers, guilt rising like a tide. “I’m sorry I failed you. I am so sorry.”
This is dedicated to all the frontline workers.
Wear a mask. Do your part. This isn’t over.
To all the frontline workers, thank you forever and beyond. You have all been working so hard to get everyone through this pandemic. And this whirlwind of a year could not have been easy. The world owes you a debt of gratitude.
And I know this is a difficult time for everyone. I don't, in any way, mean to be insensitive to your struggles. My deepest condolences for anyone you have lost this past year or so. For whatever you’re going through, you are much stronger than you know.
So I come from a family that adores poetry. I recall the way my mom's eyes would shine when she spoke of the annual book fair in her village. When she was about my age, she would love buying new books with her sisters. She would smell the scent of the fresh pages, and her little heart would swell with admiration. They would then sit in a circle, under a dim light, and memorize the poems in the books. My mom can still recite some of those poems that she read under that heavy summer air.
She has always taught me and my sister the importance of reading and writing. How both commodities combined can be used to heal and love. These tools allow us to communicate and empathize with others. And my mom, forever wise beyond her years, taught us a lot. She would say “words are like the moonlight.” Often taken for granted, but always there. People bask under the light of the day, but pull their shades down in the nighttime and ignore the iridescent moon.
I’ve also spent a lot of this year wondering if anything I ever do will be worth doing. Thinking about the gravity of life and every action I’ve ever taken, and really letting it sink in. I wondered if I would have a future, if life would ever be normal again, and if my future would include people I can’t bear to lose. And this year has taught me a lot. I have found little things that make me smile. I have learned to be open minded, aware of the world around me. I have learned how to listen simply to listen, not just to reply. I’ve learned that being anything less than joyful doesn’t make me unlovable. With a clear mind, I begin 2021 with all of these lessons. It's far less from being perfect, but learning is imperfect.
With that being said, thank you so much for reading this.