May 8, 2020
My friend Sara came over to my backyard to be distant with me. I let her sit upon a Filth Chair, one of the foldable chairs from the garage that has not been used by a human in months. She and I baked in the sun and talked about a self-coaching podcast about hand-cleaning anxiety whilst I batted Maude away from Sara’s legs. I hate to be a weirdo about distancing my dog, but I kiss her soft little head all the time, Maude’s. After a while, she left after obliging to put the Filth Chair back in the garage.
For the last decade of Dad’s pre-crematorium state of being, I felt extremely anxious and tragic about the prospect that I one day might be the one to kill him. Not by way of murder, of course; I feared I might slaughter him by means of some illness which I brought home with me, a hitchhiking bug from a McDonald’s bathroom that his chemo-battered body would not be able to withstand.
My father was in a physical rehabilitation center a few weeks prior to his death, it was there that he contracted the pneumonia which compounded with the cancer in his lungs and snuffed him out. He used a CamelBak water bottle, one of the ones with the big filtration straws, like a miniature Brita. Dad asked me to clean out the suckable rubber nipple on the end of the straw, the inside lip of which had accumulated a great deal of black gunk. I scrubbed out the septic sludge as best I could with hand soap and an adult forefinger, but I would wonder, a month later, if it was my grubby finger which shuttled the fatal pneumonic virus into my Dad’s trusting mouth. How could I know?
One does as much as they can. There’s really no way to know what you are spreading when you go into the world, who is going to pick up what you’re putting down. Faith is needed to be diligent, especially when trading in invisible agents like viruses and nanobots, faith that one is doing the right thing, even if it feels absurd.
It is eerie how heroic I feel when I wash my hands now, like I am saving lives. I pretend I am a surgeon scrubbing up before an operation, imagining an ancient lady who would, because of my efforts, not die after touching the same credit card reader after me, a kind woman who (say) shares a small brick apartment with her doddering deaf husband, a decent person with a handful of hardworking kids and a bushel of fat grandchildren, all of whom come every Sunday of quarantine to sit below her window, waving up to her from their Filth Chairs below, celebrating their matriarch’s good health.
“Rejoice, rejoice!” they cry out in jubilee. “Harry has washed his hands!”
Pizza cartoon brought to you by Cecilia Bahls and Harry Jensen