THE DISTANCE OF NOW
How can we close the gap? How to welcome in the present? Draw the shades to what might have been, what will never be, and what may be coming. Shut the door for just a minute, maybe two, against the uncertain, the unknown, of what lies ahead. How to hold this grief, the sadness, the anger, and fear?
How to be now.
How to be here.
A half-empty tea cup. A glass emptied of drink. A quiet pang of hunger. The sun outside slipping between clouds. The train blaring, its roar echoes across the flatlands. A child in play in the living room. He jumps, and the floorboards give. He laughs and yells, and the walls cannot contain his energy. My cursor blinks. The deadlines loom. My door is closed, and yet I listen to his footfall, and try and hear what that child, my child, says to our caretaker, our savior for the moment, who watches him while we try and keep working, try and stay focused. My child has been inside all day this day. School closed the day before, the day before that, and how many tomorrows to come?
How easily that now just slipped. Did you notice? My mind crept. The thoughts worried themselves. The cursor still blinks.
My child still yelling. He must be jumping from the sofa while the cars drone outside.
A crick in the neck. Eyes fatigued from staring at the screen too many hours. The wind has settled then starts up again. The sun burns bright. Clouds hang low, shadowed and billowed. We shelter in place. Isolated but not alone. Trying to help bend a curve that feels more like a tsunami wave in the horizon. Trying to ward off spikes. Trying to fend against the invisible.
The whole world at standstill.
“What has just ended in your life and what new has just begun?” a journal prompt asks.
I can’t remember when I said goodbye to life before this pandemic. Was it days ago? Weeks? Did I even think to say goodbye?
And this new life? The distance swallows me up. This now will be lost unless I keep myself.
Be present. Be patient. “This is survivable” the last journalist I read asserts from an article about discomfort and grief. Who and what will survive? Where and how will we land in the aftermath? This now, this collective stasis, this standstill.
A 2020 Bainbridge Resident for Seventh Wave Magazine, RASHAAN ALEXIS MENESES has received fellowships from the MacDowell Colony, The International Retreat for Writers at Hawthornden Castle, UK, the Jacob K. Javits Program, along with an Ancinas scholarship from Community of Writers at Squaw Valley and a scholarship from Martha’s Vineyard Institute of Creative Writing. Her fiction and non-fiction have been featured in various journals and anthologies, including Kartika Review, Puerto Del Sol, New Letters, BorderSenses, Kurungabaa, The Coachella Review, Pembroke Magazine, Doveglion Press, and the anthology Growing Up Filipino II: More Stories for Young Adults. When she’s not writing or teaching, she’s hiking the California Coast with her family.