I woke to the blaring of my alarm and dragged myself to the kitchen table to eat a quick breakfast before preparing to stare at a screen for the first three hours of my virtual school day. A week and a half before, in a panicked flurry, we found out that school would be cancelled for at least the next two weeks because of COVID-19. I Zoomed* through my morning, tumbling from one Google Classroom to the next, and by the time I reached my lunchtime break, I was more than eager to get off of my computer.
The gray sky outside mirrored the quiet gloom that had beset my world. The day was unusually warm for the end of March, as though Mother Nature was finally enjoying herself now that people were stuck inside.
Throwing on a jacket, I stepped out into the street, and was struck by the emptiness that was not only physical but that I felt was the mood of my entire block. Where the young children usually played down the street, there was only silence. The usual ebb and flow of traffic going in and out of Miriam Hospital had completely dried up, and the depth of the silence was compounded by a discarded disposable mask lying in the dirt. I walked around my corner and was shocked by the alien sight of a tan tent standing outside of the hospital. Its stoic presence reminding me of the dark reality that came with the coronavirus, I crossed the street to avoid walking by a stranger in a mask.
The parking lots of Hope Street sat abandoned, populated only by a plastic bag blowing in the breeze. I meandered down the deserted street, and as I got farther away from the hospital, I saw more and more people out. By the time I got to Blackstone Boulevard, it was as if I had stepped into a whole different world. Strangers ran side by side, strollers clogged the narrow path, and the “six-feet-apart” rule didn’t even seem to be an afterthought. In the place of the masks and gloves that had decorated the sidewalks surrounding the hospital, picnic blankets and soccer balls sat strewn across the grass. Within my neighborhood, the coronavirus had created two different realities.
*Zoom is what many of my teachers are using to conduct class.
Corwin Almo is a student at Classical High School in Providence, Rhode Island. He is a 2019 Write Rhode Island winner.