By Linda Shapiro
Some days I feel as if I’m choking. I swallow, but I can’t get rid of the feeling. I want to be done with these sensations, the fear and sense of loss.
My heart breaks for my grandchildren, their life upended, the isolation they don’t fully comprehend. Five-year-old Jake and I were swimming in my pool and I wanted to teach him how to take his head out of the water and breathe. I reached for him.
“I can’t touch you Grams,” he shouted. Oh, my God, I thought. You can’t touch me, and I forgot I can’t touch you. How can Jake at five possibly comprehend that? I’m not evil or sacred, I’m not sick but he can’t touch me.
He shouted, “The virus, I can’t touch you.”
“Yeah,” Jake shouted back at me. I looked at him. Water dripped down his face and soaked through his cropped brown hair. His skin was tanned from the summer sun.
He shouted, “The virus, I can’t touch you.” Brittany, my grand-daughter, had told him, granny’s and gramps, strangers too, anyone we don’t live with, anyone old. We can’t touch them.
I’m afraid to touch too. I wear a mask and gloves in the market. If someone comes close, I turn away. I’m careful what I touch when ungloved. I wonder what can we touch in this new isolated world, where can we safely go? People are filling the streets again. I’m going to small stores for bananas, or almond milk, my necessities. I want to pick my own apples, cherries, see people, have a destination. Yet, I hate when someone touches my credit card, already ruined from sanitizing.
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I want to be where we were. Cuddling my grandchildren, not walking away if a stranger comes too close, gathering with family at the dining room table. My daughter asked, “what about thanksgiving? What will we do?”
“We’ll be here “I said. “We can sit in the living room, the kitchen counter, some at the table. We’ll be thankful to see each other.”
“Let’s buy an outdoor heating lamp,” she suggested. “We’ll eat on the patio. It will keep us warm when we can’t swim anymore.”
I’m thankful I can see him but I dream of the day I can hold Jake in my arms.
Jake had just finished his bagel, crumbs still on his mouth. He was holding the orange water noodle. “Who will come into the water with me? “he shouted.
I looked at him, “I will.”
“I want to swim with someone I can touch,” he yelled. Last summer Jake was learning to swim. I showed him how to breathe, to take his face in and out of the water. He kicked in the pool holding on to the side. I pulled him around in the dragon float, held his hands as he practiced putting his face in and out of the water. He wasn’t afraid to touch me then. Now I want to smell his hair, feel the softness of his hands, hold him on my lap. I’m thankful I can see him but I dream of the day I can hold Jake in my arms.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR – LINDA SHAPIRO
Linda Shapiro attended Boston University. She studied modern dance at the Martha Graham School and taught modern dance. Linda eventually had a business career and traveled abroad as an importer, writing- always writing-wherever she traveled. Now retired, she takes writing classes at the Writing Institute at Sarah Lawrence College. She’s published both fiction and personal essays.