By Julene Tripp Weaver
That Soft Middle Space
To go insane
I would talk to my mother
daily—but she’s dead
which makes life easier.
If I had not taken the woman’s
hand to help her down from the ledge
where she sat when she
asked for help, I would be bereft,
there was no one for miles
that warm morning and yes
there were already Corona
virus warnings: don’t touch,
wash your hands, stay inside.
But I reached out, took her swollen
red hand, soft and warm to touch.
She thanked me after she moved
to the sidewalk with my
support, grateful, thank you,
a low vulnerable whisper—
no virus separated us.
I would be delusional
if I believed myself invulnerable
or impenetrable to disease
or to this virus, if too calm
while the world panics—
it’s hard to stay centered, easier
to be preoccupied but not ignore,
to stay in that soft middle space.
It was a frenetic party at the piano bar
the young women celebrating
sparkling at their table: dayglo pink,
neon blue, jet black, shock yellow,
and manic orange hair, drinking
martinis and dancing to the music,
they were not sheltered-in-place
and we were travelers celebrating
with locals on the Riverwalk
enjoying these moments before
the seriousness of separation began.
It is absurd to enter a quarantine
too easy, to not expect to get sick
to assume you will not die
while hundreds of thousands are infected
and notices of death increase
on your Facebook feed.
I came back to my hotel
and washed my hands after
helping the woman step down
from the ledge, my fear did not
stop me, she might have sat there
forever and that is inhumane,
for now, weeks later no one touches.
I talk to my dead mother
tell her I’m okay, that the streets
are empty, somehow she knows
this is strange, she understands
my fascination with the streets,
how I never stayed home, but
ran away, far away from her
searching for safety, for other.
Published in The Decameron: Stories of the Pandemic
The World is Shifting
My friend tells me he’s 71 and no man
in his family has ever lived that long,
so if Corona takes him, he’s fine.
But in this new age of longevity
where seventy is the new, what? Fifty?
The ages keep sliding because
it’s all relative and we’re living longer.
I don’t want my friend to die.
We’re all gay and we all have dreams
and goals, things to say and write.
I cancelled my trip east this June
to visit him in Hell’s Kitchen.
He says the marriage business is dead
but, there is no official law against marriage
many are changing their plans.
My trans friend and his partner
had a pandemic wedding
they wore matching masks
and on the Ave today, a bride
in a bridal gown and her groom
in a black suit, stood in a grubby
street waiting for Thai takeout
for their reception. The tradition of
marriage continues even in a pandemic.
We must never give up hope until it is time
to jump to the next reincarnation
let’s not use this virus for an excuse.
That Soft Middle Space: I wrote this after attending the Association of Professional Writers (AWP) in San Antonio the first weekend in March. The organization decided to go ahead with the conference after much debate, someone quit due to the decision. I was scheduled to be on a panel and it felt important to attend, so I went despite the health risk.
The World is Shifting: I wrote this after a long conversation with a friend I usually visit every other year, I cancelled my trip due to Covid-19. He conducts weddings in New York City, I felt his giving up on his business and life was premature.