Pandemic School Part 2

As promised, I am continuing to trace the shifting world of Maddie and Constance, the two high school seniors we met in Part 1. I wonder where their story will end…

Two days before “pan-school” started, I realized that I had not even glanced at any of the required summer reading for my AP British Lit class. Half of my brain had forgotten, half of my heart had dismissed the reading as unnecessary. Nothing would ever be the same again. Usually, English was my favorite subject, the one at which I excelled, but nothing since March 2020 had been “usual.” I mentally listed my top five college choices as a form of motivation, but the chances of me attending any of them next year felt as remote and unattainable as the moon. I could see the same lackluster spirit taking root in my parents, both of whom are engineers, and my two younger brothers. Why not binge watch the entire Star Wars universe on Disney+? Did it really matter what time you woke up in the morning? Or if you were even showered for that Teams meeting?

What truly mattered anymore?

At least now, we had the start of school to distract us from troublesome, existential, pandemic-induced reflections.

I am a good student, or at least, I aspire to be. Therefore, I went to the library, armed with my mask and self-scan temperature results from that morning, to find one or two required reading books. I found a miniature commentary on the state of our communities.

In the parking lot, I heard, “Maddie! Maddie Prescott! That’s you, isn’t it?”

My head whipped around to find the speaker, and I saw one of my good friends, Ella, running toward me. She checked up suddenly. I could tell that she wanted to give me a hug, but remembered. My arms longed to encircle her and squeeze tightly. How long had it been since I had been able to greet a friend with a hug?

“Ella, it is so good to see you.”

“I came to find a book for AP Brit Lit. What about you?”

“The same. I totally forgot about summer reading. It hasn’t really felt like summer.”

Ella opened the library door and we both walked inside, past the librarian stationed at the door. At first, I thought she wanted to take our temperatures, but she waved us into the lobby. Ella and I paused to chat. As we reviewed our summers (not much had happened) and upcoming classes (we were not expecting much), we noticed the librarian approaching.

“Excuse me, ladies, but we have a line to enter the library. You need to move on and make your selections.”

I felt the familiar sadness and anger that seemed to characterize living a society of grief. Ella’s face mirrored mine – disappointment, sadness, resignation. As Ella and I promised to text each other with notes on our Brit Lit assignment, I glanced around the library. The computers were gone; the story time steps were blocked; the toys in the little kids’ reading area had been removed, leaving a blank void in their absence. The emptiness and dead space seemed like a commentary on our society. I hurried to find Pride and Prejudice, check it out, and leave.

I texted Constance later.

Went to the library today. Depressing.

Huh? that’s one of your fav places.

Not now. No community there. Is that what we are all missing? Relationship.

Yup. I sure am. Then she wrote the words that still haunt me –

Maybe we have found what really matters after all.

Copyright © 2020 Heather C. Morris

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