May 18, 2022

It is Hard to Breathe in the Midst of a Pandemic

Written Tuesday, May 26, 2020

My alarm sounds at 8:15 AM. I open my eyes and take a deep breath. I wiggle my toes and move my legs. I do this religiously every morning. I open my Bible app to read scripture. I write a prayer to God thanking Him for joy. I take a shower and breathe in the scents of a hanging eucalyptus branch. I peacefully exit the shower and get dressed with ease. I light my tea kettle to warm up some water for tea. Take a seat at my dinner table which also serves as my working desk. I open my computer log onto my work email. I glance at my calendar to prepare for my day ahead. I have one hour and a half virtual meeting at 10 AM.  After the meeting wraps up, I work until 1 PM and decide to take a long walk to the post office. Walking outdoors is a sign of bravery for me. I have asthma, so taking walks is an activity that I rarely indulge in since Covid-19 hit the U.S.

Today, marks day 74 of staying at home.

In my neighborhood, in the South End, everyone doesn’t adhere to the city’s guidelines. On my infrequent walks I notice people walking their dogs, jogging, and frolicking in the public parks without wearing masks. Witnessing this behavior during a pandemic is frustrating. I also live close to a homeless shelter and those less fortunate somehow manage to still wear a mask. If they didn’t, I would understand because there is a lack of resources. However, my frustration rises when I notice people in my neighborhood who appear to be well off. I can make this assumption because they are having picnics in the park with their children, in groups unmasked, and sipping wine. There is a level of freedom and privilege that I can not grasp or understand.

As I walk back home from the post office, I make a pit stop to grab a fresh bouquet of burnt orange ranunculus flowers. I walk home full of gratitude. I am grateful for a beautiful 75 degree day. The warm sun is beaming on my face. Since I rarely go outside, the feeling of the breeze, rain, or sun against my skin is a gift.

I take a work call on the remainder of my walk home. I enter my apartment, excessively wash my hands and face. I pour a glass of iced kombucha. I take a deep breath in preparation for another virtual meeting to end my day.

I receive a text message from a colleague at work. My colleague is checking in to make sure I’m okay. The tone in the text message is compassionate with a sense of urgency. I have no idea what she is referencing. She must be referring to the Amy Cooper incident. I shortly realize that she is not. She is referring to another unlawful murder of a Black man in Minnesota. I do a quick Google search. I type Minnesota and see his name: George Floyd.

My heart sinks in the pit of my stomach. I think of my brothers. I think of the Black boys that I work with in Boston Public Schools and all of the Black men in my life that I love.

Somehow a beautiful day immediately transitions into a day of sorrow. Despite the sun shining outside my windows. I see clouds of darkness. I end my day meeting with a client. It’s business as usual. I struggle to stay engaged, sit up right, and display life in my eyes.

Later, I log onto social media and my timeline flooded with rightly raged posts and images that I dare not describe. It’s too painful. There’s another video too. I refuse to watch it. I stopped watching those lynchings after Eric Garner.

I process with my best friend on the phone who lives in DC for three hours. It is 1 AM. It’s time for me to go to bed, so that I can wake up in the morning in the midst of a pandemic and respond to my colleagues simple question at work, how are you?

I will answer. I am not well.

Note: This essay was published in the Boston Globe, June 2020.