Literary Yard

Search for meaning

By: Christopher Johnson

Photo by Two Dreamers on

In March of 2020, the pandemic came blowing into and through America like an ice wind sodden with misery and mystery and surprises galore in store for us for the next two years that felt like twenty years except for those poor souls—a million of them succumbing to this invisible prowler and enemy.

Being in Englewood, Colorado, tending our son lying in hospital bed unconscious with tubes running into and out of him like rabid snakes that carried nourishment and meds to him.

And, in the morning in the breakfast room at Residence Inn, hearing first mention of the coronavirus, skulking out of China and somehow sneaking across the ocean and invading America like an invisible armada.

By St. Patty’s Day, the streets bereft of the sad ill-begotten beings who populated them so furiously and tenaciously driving walking shopping expectorating, picking up the groceries, patienting to the doctor, succumbing to the dentist.

Now the streets empty and crying, the asphalt shedding tears of loneliness, nothing left but empty stationary vapid stores and wayward strip malls and lonely golf courses and isolated banks.

The coffee shop near the hospital in Englewood closed, sign up due to the pandemic we will be closed without further notice and the chairs stacked on tables and the future uncertain and death always near in our hypermedicalized and ambulanced society where anomie lurks just out of sight amidst reassuring buildings,

As if a neutron bomb had exploded invisibly and left the streets deliriously and chocolate empty and without substance or meaning. I felt disappeared from the streets.

But good old Wal-Mart open, the tough concrete floors nearly empty of human beans but the shelves bursting with goods except for toilet paper—toilet paper gone as if people expected to do nothing for the next year but take shits and wipe their asses and needing to lay in a year’s supply of toilet paper for said sanitary and paranoid purpose.

Then masks came out, and people walking around with only eyes and eyebrows visible, noses and mouths disappeared as if cut away with psychic knives, impossible to tell whether a human bean was laughing or frowning, but noticing foreheads more than ever–foreheads wrinkled and smooth and furrowed and questioning and doubting.

On CNN and MSNBC and Fox and local news, endless charts and maps of statistics how many were sick and how many were dying and how many were praying for a vaccine, unfolding like a truly terrible Dr. Kildare episode, and images and shots of infinite sick people in hospitals with tubes running amok like those that were strangulating Matthew.

The world run amok, insane, chaotic, and realizing that we had entered a Biblical time–a time that would be remembered through stories of valor and depression and despair and hope, and each individual like an atom floating around other atoms, and those who were despaired to die alone in their tube-encrusted hospital beds and me fearing that this was the end of empathy.

Absorption of isolation, each of us now existing like the isolated molecules that we are in this crazy endless universe.

Victims to a subtle and underlying and pandering Psalm asking why get up why not lie in bed all day in wrinkled stinky pajamas reading Victor Hugo and sucking on jackdaws from Fannie Mae and pathetically watching the telly and the maps and statistics of woebegone deaths and yearnings for the love of a roll of toilet paper.

More isolated than ever before, with jaundiced rough teeth from not brushing and besotted with iron breath and empty boxcar thoughts and colorless dreams of flight and rescue and thinking of society pulverized by fear.

The Green Mill closed and the movie theaters dead, dead with their frozen coagulant memories like cogs in a frozen brain cell, like blockages in a life-affirming artery carrying downtrodden and energy-sapped and -sapping blood.

This pandemic the metaphor for something but I can’t quite grasp the brass ring on the merry-go-round spinning on Martha’s Vineyard, this illness a metaphor for Something Extremely Important that floats just out of my interpretation to wrap it all up and understand What It All Means.

Slowly, after months, the streets start to struggle back to life, softly stir their asphalt legs and arms, stir slowly and welcome the human beans still wearing masks but weathered eyes not so downcast, foreheads not so wrinkled.

And in the meantime, at the end of the clichéd day,

Something . . . something . . . something

Has changed.


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