Shelter in Place

I grew accustomed to staying indoors, blackout drapes drawn tight, the rooms of the apartment as dark as night. One day, the room shook as someone knocked on our door. Mom shushed my brother and me, pulled down on our hands, and ushered us into the bathroom, as if it were the last bus out, to hide from “spies.”

We slid to the floor, backs against the wall, which hadn’t been freshly painted but cast a wet, plastic scent. Cool radiated from the porcelain toilet bowl at my face. Stale urine lifted from the pink, U-shaped rug. We sat there for the better part of the afternoon as a shadowy blue flickered in through the thin curtain over the narrow window, and it was the color of calm and not agitation, the hue of the slow passage of time and not urgency. And the earth didn’t shake again that day, and the people with their fists upon our door didn’t stay.

Now, we shrink from the threat of danger that shakes us down to our most primordial instincts. And there is nowhere to go but home. We rest easily, await the passing of storm, and let ourselves understand that isolation doesn’t have to beget loneliness. Over the years, we all have learned how to settle our childhood fears out of necessity so we could cope. If there is one among us who had no childhood fears, this is his childhood. For each of us, this time is nothing more than an exercise in learning how to cope.

This does not ask us to cower in trenches or stand as bullets ravage our troops. This does not push us to our knees as malnutrition wastes our bodies. This does not force us to beg in the street as a few coins replace our dignity. This is nothing difficult, nothing asking me to gut myself. Light can still get in.

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