A Winter in Quarantine; My One Year Story
By Tracy Wang & Caroline Cooper
A Winter in Quarantine
By Tracy Wang
Why does it glaringly seem as if our history is obviously repeating? The history I have not seen but seen vividly in my head through historical accounts. Passive words that described our history, the American history. Was it leptospirosis? Or was it smallpox, measles, or the lethal influenza? Then if not the three, was it polio or the swine flu? And was it the great depression when unemployment statistics rang throughout the entire nation at petrifying rates? Since segregation ended, discrimination was riding its reins and finally found sprinkled all over our government officials today. Why were they still up there? Why was there another injustice on the news today? Why can’t I do anything to stop these sickening crimes in the legal system? Why was there even a debate on whether the death penalty was unconstitutional, When a presidential pardon on any acts of crime was constitutional? When we say to write down history so we can learn from it, did we truly learn the events that happened a century ago? When we call the pandemic an unprecedented time, was that true? Haven’t pandemics happened before? Haven’t we just relapsed and against our better judgement, against our controls, we had turned back time and was again reliving a truly terrible reality? Imagining death around corners and the elderly especially, Who anticipate an outstretched hand towards them that’s coated with a sickly virus. Or first responders who put up a smile for their dying patients, But faced internal clashes as they themselves tried to cling onto their own lives. For whoever is in danger of losing their homes after their jobs, they aren’t on the streets right? And for those who were stuck in their houses, are they fine too? Could they leave as they wanted—whenever, wherever? In a year that drew a dark streak across the lives of many, that cast a dark shadow in historical books, we found ourselves asking the question why more than ever. When I flip through the articles that educate me in the place of school I can’t help but feel anxiety. And then I feel it for a good thirty minutes, Fretting the dire need for change and hating how I was the only one concerned in that moment. Where do we find the balance between ignorance and knowing too much to the point that it hurts? Why is the future so unstable? Why was there such an urgency to earn money at the age of fourteen? Why did I have to learn to talk to myself kindly from someone other than my parents? Whatever do I do as I bear witness to a police officer abusing their power, perhaps on a black stranger, perhaps on a black friend? Whatever do I do when I see a woman being assaulted on the streets? Whatever do I do when these scenarios, ugly as they are enough, are suddenly directed at me? Does this sort out to make me sound like a victim? Was it like that? Nonetheless, things from here on have taken an unprecedented new face. People would want a voice, people would want to be heard, people would fight for change, this time unmuted.
My One Year Story
By Caroline Cooper
Every day, we’re bombarded by choices, messages, opportunities, warnings. As the one year anniversary of the COVID-19 pandemic approaches, it’s impossible not to see all the many ways our lives have forever changed, some all at once. I have struggled with this strange new world. Even as we are confined and isolated, we consume more media than ever before. This social disconnect and the level of cognitive dissonance it engenders has left me feeling strange, sometimes physically sick.
I’ve always been a loner, never really looking for big groups of friends or joining crowds. So when the pandemic first hit, I thought the ensuing isolation would be tough, but manageable. I thought I could lean into being an independent person and just get by as best I could.
As the crisis worsened, however, and American leadership failed to meet the moment, my earlier confidence in my little dingy of independence started to get whipped and tossed on this vast ocean of chaos.
I am a 44-year-old woman, without children or strong ties to my family. When the pandemic started, I was living with my husband in a small town in far-away Holland. We don’t speak Dutch. When the government decided to shut down all non-essential businesses and restaurants, Dutch people came running through the streets of their village and formed lines to make desperate, last minute purchases for who knows how long. When we reached the front of the grocery store line, a man suddenly shut and bolted the doors. We couldn’t understand. The man on the other side of the door couldn’t explain.
But then after a few minutes, the man simply turned around. He opened the door. We wandered around for a few seconds, blinded by the infinity of the place. We were inside a grocery store again! See? It happened very fast. We did not expect it.
All the major events of a life unfold in the instant, in mere seconds. Everything of importance, of any real consequence, takes exactly one second. The look exchanged between two new lovers. The moment the baby is placed on the mother’s chest. The statements “You’re hired,” “Stage four,” “Marry me,” “I don’t love you anymore.” One second. Our lives tick by as we wait for these seconds. They pass thunderously, leaving a trail of the buckled and battered who both cannot believe and yet want to believe.
To experience an unrelenting series of these moments, to watch them pile up like produce in the sometimes-open, now-closed-again grocery store, is to potentially contract “Ta-ko-tsu-bo syndrome. This ailment starts with a weakening of the left ventricle, the heart’s main pumping chamber, usually as the result of severe emotional or physical stress, such as sudden illness, loss, profound heartbreak, or natural disaster. The condition is also known as stress-induced cardio-my-op-athy, or broken-heart syndrome. The heart comes to resemble the shape of the ta-ko-tsu-bo, a Japanese octopus trap in which the animal can climb in but never escape.”
While this is a real and serious medical condition, I believe you can conduct your own tests at home. The pandemic has provided ample room and time. Lie in your bed. Put your hand on your heart. Feel its valves and pulses. Wonder at its industry. And consider—what is keeping me alive? Is it the meat of this flesh-muscle in the center of my chest? Or is it a Japanese octopus trap, one into which I seem to have climbed but may never escape?
We thought about the issues that were afflicting the world right now like the Black Lives Matter movement, the U.S. presidential election, the mental health crisis, a rampaging pandemic and all other dire occurrences, and thought to speak out about it through a questioning poem and a personal narrative of one’s own experience in a pandemic.
Tracy Wang is a 15-year-old who first discovered her zest for writing during her middle school years. Being the recipient of every wonderland books offered her, she's now decided to tell stories she's seen, stories that grew near to her heart, stories that inspired her and would inspire others, stories to call her own. Writing for her has always been a form of communication, either to others around her or to herself. It is a form of change, of healing and developing, of learning and indulging, and brings revolution. Motivated by show-not-tell, she believes writing accomplishes this.
Caroline Cooper is a former UN speechwriter and communications officer based in Indonesia. She has also covered China as a research reporter for the New York Times. Since returning to the US she has become an English teacher, working at City College of New York and supporting other teachers via professional development trainings for the City’s Department of Education.