Remembering Duality

by Kylie Brown

In fifty years, when we’re all looking back on 2020, everyone will have their own story. 

When my peers are telling their grandkids about quarantine, 

When scientists and researchers have accomplished far more than a virus vaccine,

When this history books draft out a few pages about the pandemic,

I will remember duality. 

I’ll remember a frantic move-out of my dorm room when my mom insisted we drop everything and drive the four hours to school immediately. I’ll remember crossing campus in the dark with suitcases and boxes and the moment everyone said goodbye without knowing how long it would be for. But I’ll also remember the laughs we shared on the late-night drive home as we recounted our relay-race style mission.

I’ll remember group runs with my high school friends, the last thing we felt safe doing before cases reached our rural Pennsylvania county. I’ll recall the day when hugs turned into elbow bumps turned into waves turned into cancellations as the term ‘social distancing’ was introduced.

But I’ll also remember long, meandering conversations about dreams and plotting to turn them into reality. I’ll remember talking about real life, about “when this is over,” as if it was another world, another timeline, another dimension. 

I’ll remember the sight of empty grocery store shelves and boarded-up windows and “until further notice,” and I’ll remember gardening and game nights and botched baking experiments with my family. 

I’ll remember the day refrigerated trucks took on a brand new connotation and when hospitals ran out of beds. I’ll always recall the dread that came with reading the New York Times 100,000 names when that number still looked like a turning point, and the childish excitement that accompanied the sight of the mail truck. 

I’ll remember my sister crying for hours and sleeping most of the day, both devastated at the loss of her senior year, her friends, her lasts, and terrified of the mysterious disease that seemed to be creeping into every aspect of her life. I’ll hear her sobs through my bedroom wall along with the phone calls that cancelled prom, graduation, and senior week.

But I’ll also remember her and her twin, watching their Zoom graduation in pajamas, Taco Bell and Burger King in front of them, just as they’d requested, laughing and dancing as they never could in a typical ceremony. 

I’ll remember going from school to work to school to work to work to work, all the while hunched over my laptop twelve hours a day, but I’ll also remember looking out the window to see my mom enjoy her morning coffee with a novel for the first time in years. 

The fact that all of these beautiful and horrible and enlightening and devastating and warm and frigid things have existed in tandem for these days weeks months doesn’t fit cleanly into any narrative. It tells a messy story of tragedy and joy and the best and worst of people and times. It’s happy and sad and busy and empty and refuses to be confined to one area of my memory. But isn’t that a microcosm of life as a whole? Don’t we have to reconcile the good and the bad of all parts of our lives? Isn’t accepting the non-binary quality of everything part of the struggle of maturing, of growing out of good guys and bad guys? 

So maybe this is a little bit of adulting, this recollection I’m doing. This taking the good with the bad and remembering duality.

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