Well, we’re back.
The inspiration for this piece was a poem by Sam K., a classmate from a collaborative project we did with Georgetown University this past semester. I wrote most of it on a plane ride from Florida back to Virginia for my summer job on campus, trying to capture a bit of the loss, the change, the upheaval, and the multitude of experiences of the past several weeks.
My intention is in no way to downplay or ignore the losses of those who have suffered exponentially more than I have. This is just my attempt to wrestle with the experience of those of us stuck in the middle.
LOST: a group of friends.
Last seen on FaceTime, or maybe Zoom.
If found, please return when all this is over.
FOUND: a plane ticket to nowhere. Come claim it if you can find a destination.
We lost long walks under the budding green of a Virginia spring, shouts of laughter spurting up to the sky and echoing back as birdsong, the treasure-house of March with all the little leaves painted gold in the evening light and free for the taking.
We found the emptiness. Roads and rooms and hearts, the silence full of the words no longer spoken there, holding only in memory the touches no longer felt.
LOST: a month of nights in an old dorm room with a footprint on the ceiling.
FOUND: another sad song to add to all your playlists.
We lost trading Latin words like secret currency, collecting and using them to build sentences of our own (bonus points if you can shock the teacher).
We found highways unrolling before us and speed limits that no longer existed, symphonies making a soundtrack for the miles flying by and conversations that never end. We discovered that the roads have become home somehow, that the asphalt and the whir of engines is as familiar as the birdsong, that you’re always looking for a place to come to rest.
LOST: the smiles of strangers in a strange place.
FOUND: a spare mask. I think it might match your outfit.
You lost the ability to forget that germs exist. To not think about potential disease every waking moment. To not follow the trail of potential cross-contamination with every fiber of your being. To not clamp your chest tight with fear at the least sign it’s getting hard to breathe.
You found a place where the air itself is an enemy and the soap that leaves your hands looking like a dry bloody riverbed is your only friend. And you found me already there. I’m sorry to see you; but it’s all right. We’ll get through together. Maybe we can even get away, and you can forget this place ever existed for you.
LOST: the inviting blank space of an empty whiteboard before class. The smell of the markers and the scrawled quotes at the top.
FOUND: what an anxiety attack feels like.
LOST: thousands of people we never got to meet.
FOUND: a hundred thousand graves.
We lost the music. A river of voices swelling and overflowing into what could only be called worship. Did we know the last time we sang that the hallelujah was a requiem? That our river would be parted as the angel of death was passing through?
I found my mother’s old guitar. Ran my fingers over the dents it’s found from living twenty years in my childhood home. I wrapped my fingers around the wood again, found the chord positions, found the callouses I thought I’d lost, and sang the songs that have rooted themselves in my soul and muscles. Nobody heard. That was quite all right.