This time it’s on you.
I moved to New Orleans, Louisiana a month ago. While I was anticipating a significant cultural difference from Brooklyn where I’d lived for eight years, I was not anticipating a medical one. From the moment I walked out of the airport, my mouth was unsanitarily agape in restaurants and coffee shops, not a mask in sight among patrons or staff. I lost count of how many times I asked my best friend, “Is this okay?” Reader: It wasn’t.
Louisiana is currently dealing with a Delta variant surge with severity at or above what the state saw in the spring of 2020. Hospitals are full again, resources are gone again, we are asking an inhuman amount of physical and emotional work from our doctors and nurses again. My personal belongings aren’t all I brought down here with me. Trauma came too. I remember this, I remember what happens now. I know how to prepare, stock up, and get the fuck out of the way.
A case of toilet paper here, bulk Clorox wipes there—and enough hand soap to last me ’til Christmas. A box of masks and gloves has been standard operating procedure in my pantry for the last year and a half. I bulk bought coffee, Cliff bars, and pasta, figuring if Covid didn’t require their use, a hurricane might. It wasn’t a “oh, I’ll get some tomorrow” fleeting thought. It was instinctual, automatic—a reflex developed following a year of panic and terror that I’d just begun to process when the unvaccinated among us decided to cause an unnecessary, moronic, and at this point criminal surge in a now preventable pandemic.
I’m not new this time, I’ve seen this before. I know what comes next. It’s me, alone and terrified, staring at a sign on the wall that says “one per customer,” not that it matters because whatever I came to the store for is out of stock anyway. It’s me rinsing my hands and wiping down my phone, purse, and doorknobs with rubbing alcohol. It’s me not hugging a human being for months on end. My cat is dead this time, I wonder if I’ll have to get another so that my mental health doesn’t decline from lack of touch and company. I know where we go from here and I’m not going to be afraid or unprepared this time. This time I’m going to be alert, well-supplied, and fucking angry.