home Poetry No Laughing Matter

No Laughing Matter

By Ashley Rose ’21g (English)

At first, it wasn’t even a concern.
Every year, there’s always some new illness, right?
What made COVID-19 any different?
So people made memes and laughed at it.
Then people started dying.
“Eh, it’s in China, it can’t get us here,” they said.
Laugh, click share,
And then it reached the United States.
“We’re young, it only affects old people,” some college students implied on the news.
They weren’t going to let some virus get in the way of enjoying their roaring twenties.
And then the young began to contract it.
We slowly began to learn that this virus didn’t discriminate.
It was killing people, no matter what age, race, gender, political opinion, social class.
The number of deaths was rising every day, so staggering it almost didn’t seem real.
The virus wasn’t funny anymore.

The world turned upside down.
Staying home became commendable.
Suddenly we’re wearing masks.
We hear someone cough, clear their throat, sneeze.
And everyone freaks out.

“This is like the start of a sci-fi horror movie,” a coworker remarked to me one day.
That’s what we were all thinking, too.
Because with every day that passed, the death toll increased.
Stores, restaurants, churches, colleges;
Everything was shutting down.
Entire continents and countries closed their borders in an attempt to contain;
To protect their people.
The whole world shutting down.
No one had ever seen anything like this before.

Just before things got worse,
I remember walking into the supermarket
Just to pick up a few small things.
I didn’t expect to see the shelves bare.
Picked clean.
Because everyone had to have hand sanitizer,
Hand soap,
Bleach,
Clorox wipes.
Suddenly, toilet paper became a holy grail.

I stood there, staring at empty shelves once fully stocked.
I remember thinking that my coworker had been onto something.
That yes, this did feel like the start of a sci-fi horror film.
Isn’t this how it looked in the zombie movies?
Streets barren, shelves picked clean.
Virus, pandemic, and death streaming across the news daily,
And everyone’s sizing each other up.
Doesn’t matter if you have a mask on or not,
Everyone’s thinking the same thing:
“Do they have the coronavirus?”
Suddenly everyone around us becomes a “them.”

Unlike the movies, the “looters” who pick the shelves clean aren’t rugged survivors clad in all-black outfits wielding guns and katanas and baseball bats with nails.
The looters are real human beings.
Some terrified, trying to stock up so they don’t have to leave the house often.
Others trying to help family members out; to protect them, because the less exposure, the better.
And so, they shop for them, buying in bulk, which is understandable.
We’re all trying to protect the ones we love.
Of course, some people are greedy and looking to resell their finds online.
Price gouging through the roof, because home thermometers and tissue packs seem to have become a rarity, so of course some want to capitalize on it.
Even in a pandemic, some still choose money and profit over human decency.

I remember the first few weeks of quarantine.
The news blaring all day every day, the numbers growing with no signs of slowing down.
People were dying — people are still dying.
This virus was never the joke we made it out to be.

My mother’s eyes glued to the television,
Her expression grave, brow furrowed with worry
Because both of my siblings live in one of the hot spots close to the city
And that’s where the number of new cases is skyrocketing.

My grandfather, who lives with us
He lived through the Great Depression.
Even he looks at the YouTube videos of the empty shelves
And he doesn’t know what to think.

My father watching the virus creep closer via some app on his phone, spreading
County by county, city by city, town by town.
It’s only a matter of time before it reaches us.
Day by day, it’s getting closer.

God, I hope it doesn’t reach my family.
God, I pray it doesn’t reach my family.
Please, God, don’t let it reach my family…