You listen to the sounds of the night— they become an unending sad song as you try to calm a panic attack, reach for the can of supplemental oxygen and draw some puffs in. You wonder what might be the state of someone who has no access to such a can.
When I say “be safe”, I am hoping that you do not have to queue up in public spaces to get a PCR test done. That you may always have the means to not risk closed spaces and long lines. But I am also hoping that the vaccination queues where you go with the hope for protection does not turn you away with the beginning of an infection.
I hope you do not have to lie in bed awake all night worrying about a cousin who is in the ICU or thinking about another cousin who passed away last week after weeks of battle against the virus.
The virus—how commonplace the term and its presence—threatens our very breath, making us toggle from fear to fear. It gives us a start every time a loved one sneezes or coughs.
“How terrible is this? I have to shun my own children,” the mother says, as she speaks from outside a shut door, through her mask at her child who is quarantined.
She wants to cradle her child in her arms, but all she can do is fill the plate with food that she believes will nurse her babe back to health. She puts it down at the threshold, then steps away quickly before the child opens the door to pick the plate and shut the door again, like some criminal.
I wish to shield you from experiences like these.
I wish that after picking your plate, you never have to stare at the food for an hour, wondering if your sore throat will burn as you swallow, wondering why everything tastes like nothing. And then nibble slowly, not knowing whether to love or hate the act of eating food that is now sans taste, sans fragrance, but you must eat even though you have no appetite.
I wish none of these to ever be your experience.
When I say “be safe”, I wish you are not in a country where the government wrestles to stay in power as people struggle to find hospital beds and oxygen cylinders and to put food on the plate. I wish you never find yourself in a situation where there is no room to isolate, or the means to buy medicines or food that will nourish you back to health.
“Be safe.” I want you to always have lungs that allow you breathe without having to lean on steroids or supplement oxygen. I want you to continue experiencing rain without worrying about catching pneumonia or bronchitis. I want you to outlive me.