Author: Mary Sophie Filicetti
The roar of overhead planes; that’s what hits me—or more, the lack of it. Each morning at six planes soared overhead, one after another, pulling me into a dim consciousness. Night brought a gradual reversal, the gaps between flights widening until ten o’clock, when the airspace went still. National operated with limited hours, hemmed in by law like an errant teen. That was before our own curfew went into effect.
Alongside the curfew came media restrictions. Only state-run t.v. news and stations showing old movies remained; hundreds of other channels posted only a silent message: “Off air until further notice.” Sitting idly on the couch never held much appeal, until work dried up, and we all retreated into our nests, singly or within a brood.
Other rhythms became muted. The hum of traffic, once waxing and waning around peak times, faded without daily commuters, the volume on the street inching down decibel by decibel. The sound of a child’s sudden laughter, a barking dog—those flashes of normal life—now felt jarring.
The mail slot swings open, startling me. I scoop up junk mail, ads for virtual services and food deliveries, then secure the cover back over the exposed slot. A chime rings, reminding me it’s Saturday, time for my weekly call.
“How is Mom today?” I ask Kali, her aide. “Can I say hello?” A t.v. echoes in the background.
“Blythe, it’s your daughter,” Kali says.
“My daughter?” comes the mystified response.
A piece of movie dialogue is just audible over the scrape of Mom’s walker.
“…always depended on the kindness of strangers…” I recognize Ann-Margret’s voice, though the title escapes me. Without CNN, Mom’s former tether to the outside world, there is only the comfort of classic movies.
I remind Mom of my upcoming visit as I flick a glance at the ad taped to my fridge:
Now welcoming new members, all ages!
Before turning the key in the lock for the final time, I flip my business sign to a hand-printed one: “Closed, Until Further Notice.” A few potted plants are left on the stoop.
Bypassing visitor’s parking, I continue along as the road bends and dips alongside Memorial Garden’s beautifully manicured grounds. Weeping willows bloom, and daffodils dot the walkway, but despite the weather, not a soul is visible. Scanning the expanse of picture windows above, I summon images of the view from within.
My clearance is accomplished remotely, a technician in white lab coat peering into a monitor, recording my health history and recent travels. Another tech briefly enters the small vestibule in full bio-hazard gear to collects samples. Piped in Muzak plays while I await test results, alone.
Paperwork is signed, granting access to my accounts, agreeing to the terms. Yes, I am cognizant of my actions.
The nurse leans over with a tray, smiling, the pill in a paper cup alongside a glass of water. I reach out, hesitating, as if I’m giving this one last thought, but it’s only for show. Scientists say they’re working on a reversal of this treatment, in case the virus is defeated, but for me the waiting, the hoping, is intolerable.
Cozy recliners form a semi-circle around the television. I’m comfy in pajamas and slippers; my street clothes by now incinerated. A strain of music erupts, and Westworld unfurls across the screen.
“Wonderful—a new movie!” I say, all anticipation.
An elderly woman smiles at me. There is something familiar about her features, which puzzles me, but then the screen flickers, pulling my attention away, and it’s gone.