by Sabrina Michelena
My family and I make a habit of traveling to see our extended family during the summer. Our plan usually consists of leaving the day after school ends and staying in Peru for about two weeks where my dad’s family lives. Then we come back to the United States and visit my mother’s family in Ohio and California. However, due to the pandemic, we haven’t been able to see anyone for over a year.
The pandemic, whether we like it or not, has given all of us a minor traumatic experience. Despite the very recent lift of the mask mandate by the CDC, I still can’t help feeling unsafe despite being fully vaccinated. The chances of me contracting COVID are so extremely low. However, I still feel like I can’t let myself go. For everyone, going back to complete normalcy and the life we lived before will be a huge shift. We’ll still be wary, fearing there is some sort of chance of contracting the virus. We could feel suffocated when we start going into closed public spaces without any sort of face guard. When someone coughs, we’ll share knowing, paranoid glances. There is no doubt that this experience will cause us to suddenly become somewhat paranoid.
I remember the last time I was at an airport. It was February of 2020, just a little less than a month before the first lockdown started. It was mid-winter break and we knew about COVID going around in China, but we never imagined that it would spread to the rest of the world. It took two flights to get to Peru, stopping at Costa Rica in between flights. When we got to Costa Rica and we walked toward the gate to catch our flight straight to Peru, we saw flight attendants in masks. My brother pointed it out, in a hushed tone, as if he was afraid the staff would hear him.
It was such an odd thing to see since in New York, it was extremely rare to see people wearing masks. My family and I hadn’t worn masks to go to the airport because the thought of contracting the virus was so beyond us. My dad scoffed. “They’re just being paranoid,” he replied to my brother.
When we landed and had dinner with my grandma and aunt, we mentioned what we had seen at the airport to them. My aunt had laughed, almost in disbelief. “La gente está loca,” (People are crazy), she had said. “Nosotros estamos seguros, no nos va a pasar nada. Se va a quedar en China, ya verás.” (We’re safe, nothing is going to happen to us. It’ll stay in China, you’ll see).
We believed them. How could we not? We laughed over the incident and re-told it to multiple people. “You’ll never believe what we saw at the airport. You have to hear this, these people are crazy.” Months later, we realized they were in the right mindset. It was almost karma when we hid our grimaces as we tucked the elastic strands behind our ears and the lower half of our faces became familiarized with a piece of cloth.