Authors: Charlie Liu, Nicole Wang, Lambert Zheng Editors: Tiffany Chen, Joyce Hai, Demi Leng, Suhani Patel, Lydia Ren, Anand Soma, Shannon Tan, Cynthia Zhang, Molly Zhao, Leon Zhou
Artist: Nicole Wang
Jasmine After hours of looking for people out the window, I finally saw someone walking along the once crowded tourist street across my house. But why was he dressed up in a yellow suit, all covered up with goggles and gloves? Where was everyone? I leaned against the windows and asked my brother,“Why isn’t there anyone on the street now? Why did the bright lights fade?”
My brother Henry put down his pen, looked outside the window, and gazed down at the deserted street. “People are all at home because of the pandemic,” he sighed. He turned back and continued to work on his Mathematics assignments from his online class. “Who is the pandemic? Why are people staying away from him?” Bewildered, I turned towards my brother and exchanged looks with him. “It’s not who, it’s what . You’re too young so you might not know. This pandemic happens when a virus spreads around, which can make people sick — and even die.” He put down his pen again and leaned towards me. He peered at the silhouettes of the skyscrapers in the distance above — the grim, blurry horizons zigzagged in the shape of the lofty buildings. The doors of the shopping mall across the street were shut tight and no lights shone from inside. The street between had lost its clamor from the old days. There were no signs of anyone on the street, only the shadow of the swaying trees on the sidewalk. Suddenly, my brother’s phone rang. Henry With a cup of almost-soggy instant ramen in one hand, I picked up the phone. The call was from my friend, James. “Hey, we haven’t caught up in a while...how’s it going?” “Everything is fine...more or less,” James said. “Our school is under lockdown and we’re forced to stay inside our homes. I mean, I guess I’m the lucky one — at least I’ve got local relatives so I won’t have to spend tons of hours hauling heavy suitcases and sitting in uncomfortable flights to fly back to China.” James went silent for a moment, then sighed wearily. “You see, Henry, despite the alarming statistics, I see my neighbors go to work without wearing masks, which makes me feel anxious and worried. I’m afraid that I may contract the virus. New York state already has a plethora of patients enduring horrifying symptoms of the virus. It seems as though everyone is ignoring the truth of the situation — that the virus will only die if people address the seriousness of the situation. Apart from the Zoom lessons held by my school, I can hardly find anything else to do.”
“I’m sorry to hear that,” I said, “I hope you’re safe. We’re under the same circumstances too.It’s pretty difficult for us to get used to this extreme lifestyle. Lots of important events are being delayed, my favorite restaurants are shut down, and I can only communicate with my close friends via WeChat, text, and Facetime. Ugh, I wish this pandemic would be over already.”
“At least your parents live with you,” James blurted abruptly. “Last week, an infected Chinese student suffering from breathing difficulties and high fever didn’t have access to medical help. I’m not sure if he successfully received help or not, but at that moment, I just wished he would be able to get the help he deserved. You know, these things scare me.” “Oh no! I hope he is recovering. As soon as this nightmare is over, we’ll finally be able to see each other in person. Oh, I need to go, it’s my mom’s break soon. She only has time to call me during her break.” Henry glanced at the clock and quickly put down the phone.
Nicole “Don’t forget to drink hot water!” Nicole said, shutting the cabinet door. “Take good care of yourself and your grandparents. Don’t fight with each other!” Filled with exhaustion, Nicole dropped down and sat on a soft, maroon-colored sofa. After taking a couple of slow, deep breaths, then she ate some snacks while she scrolled through her phone, she walked back to the cabinet. “I have to go back now. Miss you.” She ended the call with her son, and then proceeded to open the cabinet just as she had already done that very morning. Nicole reached into the dark, wooden cabinet and took out several pairs of medical gloves. Some of them have already been used many times, like a gerontic soldier carrying his gun again onto the battlefield, permeating with austerity and honor.She put on all layers of protective clothing including an N-95 mask, an extra covering on top of her scrubs, medical shoe covers, and went out of the lounge. As usual, like executing a program, she took the pager with her, walking into every patient’s ward. The happiest part of every day was that after examining her patients’ basic physical condition and helping them out with problems and difficulties they were facing, she could enjoy the sweetest and purest smiles that emerged on their faces. She knew exactly what was going on with each of her patients; she knew who had high blood pressure, who didn’t sleep well at night, and who was a picky eater. As a nurse, the COVID-19 pandemic has had a huge impact on her life, and the same goes for all human beings. But it also showed her something no one else had seen, at the frontlines, the complex but wonderful emotions of humanity — empathy and responsibility. “Madam, you should change to another drip. This one has already finished.” She deftly removed the needle from the old woman's hand. When she saw that the old lady’s wrinkled and aged hand was full of pinholes, her heart sunk to the floor, and her movement became more gentle. She remembered the last time she cheered outside of the patient’s room as an old woman, like this madam, was extubated from the ventilator. She was only in her early 50’s, and all the nurses and doctors thought she would not make it because she had been on the ventilator for a long time. They all lined up in the ICU hallways, cheering and playing inspirational hymns as she was wheeled out of the ICU. It was nearly lunchtime, and she heard her colleague call her to get takeout from the hospital reception. The delivery man wore a bright yellow suit and she ran over to grab her lunch from his outstretched hands.
That man must be as laborious as all the other medical workers fighting to stop the virus , she thought. This was his fourth delivery for this day.
Delivery Man He had the responsibility of sending takeout for various people. And this time, it was for a hospital. Before deciding to continue his work, many people had told him to consider his decision regarding his family. His parents were still in his hometown, far away from this sick city, but with much poorer medical and economic conditions. Of course, he knew that the work he was doing now was dangerous, since he had to come into direct contact with many people every day. At this point, his health was a time bomb. But yet, this was the only way to provide for his family back home. He knew that they needed him, thus he brushed off any lingering worries about his health. A nurse in white scrubs approached him. In the rushed flow of to and from, white was always the most brilliant color out of the different colors people were dressed in the hospital. It intrigued him to the extent that he imagined they were angels befalling to the world. She received the takeout from his hand and thanked him. Even though she still wore the heavy and thick protective suit, he could make out a faint smile behind her goggles that was blurry and slurred by the moisture of sweat and tears.
The next task came soon. On the way to the appointed restaurant, the solitude of the city was insolently depicted in front of the delivery man by the silent streets, tightly closed doors of the shopping mall, and ubiquitous presence of N-95 masks. But he also saw cats wandering across the alley, birds still striving to stretch their radiant wings, and the sun falling below the horizon, painting a beautiful sky filled with wondrous colors. He also knew that the sakura flowers of this city were going to blossom soon. When he passed a community, he noticed a pair of eyes looking at him through the window of an apartment. There sat a little girl with a dull countenance, but a pair of glistening eyes. For a long time, he hadn’t seen any children except the sick and poor kids in the hospitals. He waved and smiled at her. What he didn’t know was how much joy his greeting brought to the little girl. And he did not know that after he smiled and waved, the little girl turned to her brother, Henry, and excitedly shouted: “Wow! Did you see it? A delivery man just walked past and waved to me!"