My daughter skips down the stairs and pauses at the big mirror in the hall to preen. Her fashion, like the fashion of most her age, makes my skin crawl. Bare arms, exposed neck, no gloves. I know skin contact isn’t a direct infection vector but a careless touch of the face is all it takes. I stifle my concerns; my daughter has grown up disinfecting her hands, avoiding touching her face, and keeping her distance from people. It’s my generation that still struggles with the new culture of distance.
Even with the exposed skin she’s well prepared to keep herself safe; her face mask already on and sealed, a sanitizer pack clipped to her collar, and a wipe package strapped to her thigh.
“Going out tonight?” I ask as casually as I can. Becky usually tells me or puts it on the family calendar when she goes out.
“Yeah Arya is picking me up. We’re going to a party.”
“A party?” I sit up straighter a look expectantly at her.
“Mom. It’s not a big deal. Just ten kids hanging out talking.”
“Ten including you and Arya?”
“Yes. Adam has a big living room. Everyone will have their own chairs, no touching, food and drinks are single serve packs. We aren’t wild infectors like you were.” She’s seen the old movies where parties were a few dozen teenagers standing shoulder to shoulder talking faces inches apart. Nowadays it’s irresponsible to gather in groups larger than ten and sit closer than double arms length.
“I know honey. I know it’s just I remember when this all started. The panic and people disregarding warnings about large groups.” I pause collecting myself. A car horn beeps once outside. Becky glances at the door but looks back at me; her eyebrows knit together worried that I’m still worried. I smile as broadly as I can. “That’s Arya, better go before she gets worried.”
“Are you sure? I can cancel; no big deal.”
“No, no. Go have fun. I’m just being a worrywart.” I hold out two fingers. She presses two fingers to mine for a second. We disengage, touch our sanitizer packs, and rub our hands clean.
Another car beep comes from outside. Becky laughs and runs to the door. Before it closes she looks back and waves. It’s her world now. A world of brief contact and small gatherings but not one without friends.
Author’s Note: After reading an article titled “Will Corona virus Happen Every Year Like The Flu?” which discusses the factors that cause the flu to be seasonal and how covid-19 might or might not have those same factors, I ended up thinking about a world where corona virus was always waiting in the wings to cause an outbreak. I didn’t want to write a depressing story about a society on the brink. So I wrote about a new society that is cautious about touch and large groups but not afraid to live.