Ford Motor Company Tells Me About Perseverance by Alexis Annunziata

Francoise Gaujour

They remind me: For over a hundred years we have been building for this country. When America needed tanks and planes, we built those, too. Ford hearkens to wartime because that is the popular narrative taken up by America in any time of struggle. Everything is declared as war; everything is said in the language of triumphalism. COVID-19 is a battle to be won, and the conflict is being televised in a ceaseless barrage of car commercials, data, and media cycles.

Indeed, contemporary Mad Men have read the room and they’re armed with their buzzwords: unprecedented, uncertain, unstable. They reiterate COVID-19’s boogeymen because I suppose acknowledgment is meant to be the brother of reassurance. The corporation is human too. Yes, I affirm to my television, we are scared. An invisible woman narrates the shot of a car speeding up a treacherous winding road as I try not to read into the metaphor. She says, we’ve all had it tough before, and here at Cadillac, we know that by working together, we will make it through. After she briefly cites unnamed past traumas that we (allegedly) collectively experienced, she offers me flexible payment arrangements, and tells me about how current owners will receive OnStar crisis assist services and in-vehicle wi-fi data (for a limited time, of course).

When has Cadillac had it tough? When was the last time Ford cried? If they were truly among the living and the feeling like the legal system so often reifies, then they would categorically represent the most vulnerable population. At over one hundred years old, Cadillac and Ford would most certainly be immunocompromised to some degree, and I would be their biggest threat. According to the media, I am 23 years old and reckless. These details are inextricably bound. I am completely ignorant of the hazard I pose to everyone else. The experts tell me it is most common for my age group (20-29) to be asymptomatic carriers of COVID-19. In laughter and embraces, I am the entity that brings my parents and grandparents to the doorstep of infection, deterioration, and darker potentials.

I am wondering what to do with all of this as I hear the blare of bargains from the television throughout the long hours of sequestering. Aristotle’s theory tells me that time is made of three logical moments: past, present, and future. “Now,” or the present, is the border that separates past and future: the moment in which we currently reside distinctly divides what was and what will be. This leaves us quite susceptible to two things: nostalgia and anxiety. I often find myself dancing in my mind, remembering the time I could hold the toes of a friend and paint her nails with grotesque imperfection. In the quieter corners of my home, when I am folding the laundry or unloading the dishwasher, I am reminded of who I am still: the graduate student, the potential asymptomatic carrier, a young woman with a history of self-harm who is plagued by the fear of coming undone in isolation. In a not-so-distant future, I will come out into the world with no job prospects, so they tell me. My friends with parents on ventilators will surely come out of this with survivor’s guilt, even if death decides to only brush them rather than take from them. I breathe a little faster as I stack the Tupperware and place the pile back in its rightful spot in the cabinet. At least I have the option of 0% APR financing, should I warm up to the idea of purchasing a Hyundai.

To keep myself sane, I have been trying to follow Aristotle, but I have run into some trouble. If the present is the edge of the cliff that separates the familiarity of the preceding rock and the wide, unyielding air of the canyon, there must be something distinguishing here, this moment—but there’s not. In the endless onslaught of facts and figures, it is becoming increasingly difficult to delineate the data that represents today from the data that represents an accrual of incoming information harvested over the past few weeks. With an influx of testing comes alarming numbers that previously remained unknown, which thusly carves a safe-space of ignorance for us to inhabit. The border of the past and the present is thinning as information is failing to keep up. When I am told my tiny haven, my home-state of New Jersey, has nearly 4,500 infections, this number is abstracted from the clarity of a timeline that explicates this massive figure. In COVID-19, Aristotle is failing me. The logical periods seem no match for the blazing guns of the media’s reports. The Cadillacs and Fords cannot save us, no matter how many times they remind me that they’re here for me and my family.

However, if I am already living in uncertain, unprecedented, and unstable times, if I am already guaranteed nothing in my present, save anxiety in the face of an invisible threat that has been lurking in both far and familiar places for the past few months, then I am left with no option but to demarcate the future in an alternate way. The border and what lies beyond it must be constituted by a beautiful difference. This must be true. This must be true.

In quarantine I am writing for my future, though it is presently described as bleak. This is not to say I am looking for a win. I am simply looking towards emergence. I am looking towards mutual understanding and support that doesn’t come from the monotonous voiceover on an advertisement. The coming months have no choice but to be composed of hope, or something that resembles the thing with feathers, which will not stop singing from the balconies.

Meet the Contributor

Alexis Annunziata Alexis Annunziata is an emerging writer and MA student in English and American literature at New York University. Her thesis work delves into poetic form, the prison space, and manifestations of human rights subjects. She currently lives in New Jersey, where she often reads and rarely tidies her room.

STORY IMAGE CREDIT: Flickr Creative Commons/Francoise Gaujor

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