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  • Writer's picturestephanieraffelock

A New Way Forward

The atoms of darkness break apart as light breathes itself into the day. I’m on the edge of myself, picking politics from my teeth, trying to get the bad taste out of my mouth.

The landscape of my neighborhood looks like it survived a fire, but it was really a freeze, a gripping, suffocating cold that left everything dry, brittle and brown. Metaphorical comparisons come to mind – the ravages of pandemics and governments devoid of statesmanship or providing for the common good, has left everything broken and parched.

I spend a couple of hours online each morning, navigating three websites that won’t let me in. I keep trying anyway, thinking I can beat the odds, and get an appointment for the vaccine. I go to the state's .gov site and read headlines that say Limited Supply. Maybe tomorrow. Maybe next week. Maybe in April. I’ve waited this long, what’s a few more hours, days, weeks? I’m encouraged to drive to the next county or city for a vaccine. “Think outside the box,” people say, but I fear I’ve become a nameless, faceless ghost in the masses, trying to get help, crying out to an empty room.

I’m starting to feel that I’m doing something wrong; that I should be willing to drive an hour or two to get the shot in another city or county. Why is this so much like The Hunger Games? Good friends send me more links to places where I can register for the vaccine. Two hours each morning. I can’t give it more than that. The new links yield nothing yet, just more frustration.

Life unfolds on the couch with my laptop and my tea. I watch the sky change. Trees silhouetted against the vastness, bare branches reaching up in prayer, Dear God, please save us from ourselves. Another day. Hopefulness? My resilience and positive thinking are exhausted. The governor of Texas has eliminated the mask mandate and opened up the state. “One hundred percent opening,” he said, while still the virus continues. Too many people mistake freedom as meaning you can do whatever you want to do, whenever you want to do it, without a thought for anyone else. I wonder how we got so ignorant and uncaring about others? Life does not feel open Governor Abbott, it feels frightening, underscored by a longing for common sense and goodwill. Freedom, my ass!

Grubbing in the dirt for the gratitude that I misplaced, wishing that the sun would come out and dissipate the gray, I decide on more tea. It’s all I can do this morning. On my gravestone they will probably write: She drank tea while Texas burned, or maybe froze.

I left the dishes last night. There are plants on the back porch that need to be potted. I look forward to small tasks to help pull me from my splintered worry. Take a shower. Get dressed. Do what needs to be done. I remind myself that I don’t believe there is a “normal” to go back to. All of us will need to break trail and find a new way forward.

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