Here at the St. Thomas airport in mid-March, we feel the urgency of the transition, the awareness of how we position our bodies, where we place our luggage, how we consider for the first time the numbers of people whose belongings are placed on the same steel table, the same conveyor belt, the same glowing radioactive scan, whose IDs are touched by the same gloved hand, whose own hands touch the ID and then the phone, and then the grip of the suitcase, and then the face, no, not the face, so first the glooped-on Hail Mary hand-san, and then the face, knowing it’s a bad idea but if there’s an itch it must be scratched and we don’t have a supply of gloves for face-scratching purposes and we start to wonder about the people here who wear the masks, if they are sick or taking precautions and if they are taking precautions then they shouldn’t be wearing masks and so we have to assume they are sick or are getting sick but the effect is that people give them space, lots of space, because no one wants to be coughed on, no one wants to catch whatever it is we might all still catch, mask or hand-san or no, or spread unwittingly what might have already been spread, and amid all this our almost-elderly parents still go to the largest rodeo in America, because, they insist, it’s “not here yet,” even as they complain there’s no hand sanitizer or TP in all of Florida, and to stave the terror of losing them because of wrangled horses, we laugh at social distancing jokes on the Facebook and make social distancing jokes because we need to find some levity, some bright spot in what for many at the airport is the last hurrah, the end of vacation, the last vacation, perhaps, for the foreseeable, and when we’re tired of the jokes, we play and replay on YouTube all of the Italians who resto en casa who cook their families beautiful meals and spend their evenings with good wine, singing to each other beautiful songs in Italian on the same balconies their mothers hang the wash from each morning, and as the recognizable aria from La Traviata surfaces, again, we consider for once our interconnectedness, our collective longing for belonging, that we all need and deserve to be healthy and to be cared for when we are sick and for someone to sing to us from a balcony and for someone to hear our song, ricocheting through the long cobbled streets lined with laundry, should we choose to sing it.
Erica Plouffe Lazure is the author of a flash fiction chapbook, Heard Around Town, and a fiction chapbook, Dry Dock. Sugar Mountain, a flash fiction chapbook, is forthcoming by Ad Hoc Press (UK) in Fall 2020. Her fiction is published in McSweeney’s Quarterly Concern, Carve, Greensboro Review, Meridian, American Short Fiction, The Journal of Micro Literature, The Southeast Review, Phoebe, Fiction Southeast, Flash: the International Short-Short Story Magazine (UK), Litro (UK), and elsewhere. She lives and teaches in Exeter, New Hampshire, and can be found at ericaplouffelazure.com.
STORY IMAGE CREDIT: Flickr Creative Commons/Stephen Bowler
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