As Maddie and Constance start online “pan-school,” they struggle with the life and death issues that are now a part of our every day existence.
The first day of pan-school went more smoothly than anyone anticipated. The new technology platform adopted by our school district during the summer months was intuitive and seamless. Aside from some Internet linkage issues, and the plain fact that each student and teacher was in their own home instead of together, everything worked. Secretly, I had hoped pan-school would be an abject failure.
My parents hear horror stories from their friends in other school districts about navigating their online school platforms, keeping up with the assignments, inability to log in to classes, and antagonistic interactions with stressed-out teachers and administrators. Why couldn’t our district have had something go wrong? I wondered. Then, maybe, they would consider letting us go back to school. We promise we would wear our masks and follow the rules. As I thought the last sentence, I doubted my use of the collective pronoun, “we”. Would all of my classmates, every single one of them, agree to wear their masks and wash their hands? We teenagers are not known for being the most compliant types.
My reprieve from school was, ironically, our school’s learning platform chat function. Constance was in most of my classes. We spent most of the Zoom meetings talking in the chat room or texting on our phones.
Maddie, you find the AP Chem assignment? She usually wrote me first.
Yep. It’s under the Lessons folder, then Assignments. Don’t know why it’s there and not just in the regular Assignments folder.
Are you ok? Really… I know your parents haven’t let you go anywhere since March. That has to be hard. Like mentally, I mean.
Honestly, Maddie. I’m not doing well. The walls are closing in. I’ve ordered five new puzzles, and I don’t want to do them. I don’t even want to read Sherlock anymore. And it’s not just my parents. I’ve agreed that I don’t need to go out of the house. I’ve already been on a ventilator once. Don’t know if my lungs could handle that again.
No Sherlock? But he’s your fave? I really want to protect you, Constance, not even just help you. Protect you. You’re my best friend – I want to keep you safe from this virus AND from depression. But really, I’m not sure if I can. Let’s Zoom later?
Nah. I hate Zoom.
I looked at the cursor blinking on the screen and the notice that Constance Wallows had left the chat room. It was like my best friend hung up on me. My heart was aching.
Every day, my parents took the opportunity to rave about how we had ‘family dinners’ every night again. My brothers and I just rolled our eyes. I mean, it’s not like every activity, sport, restaurant, or entertainment venue wasn’t closed right now. Well, we could go to a restaurant, but had to wear a mask in, or anytime we went to the restroom, and on the way out. Not quite the same, huh? I’m really not even sure that if a group of teenagers showed up at a restaurant that they would let us in. Oh, and the movies? Well, forget that. I’d been looking forward to Black Widow’s movie for over a year now. Not sure when I would ever see that, or if I would see it with friends. Our sports practices were socially distanced and short because everyone was exhausted from working out in a mask. I missed the excitement of GOING OUT. I missed my friends. I missed Constance more than anything.
My laptop dinged – You have one new assignment.
“Great,” I murmured, “Keep ’em busy, right, so they don’t think about how much everything stinks right now.”
“Maddie!” my mom called, “Lunch time. Oh, and Connie’s mom called. Something’s happened to Caleb.”