You hadn’t listened. You heard the calls for distancing, for isolationism, for masks, but you knew better. A friend of a friend shared a post they found online about how these things were the start of government control, and you won’t be controlled. You went out. You lived just like God intended. You hugged, loved, and lived in your world as you saw fit. If it’s good enough for the rich and powerful, it’s good enough for you.

There was a protest. You were there, screaming into the void, demanding that your world resume on schedule. You were overtaken by a righteous spirit to be heard, to demand the continuation of your freedom, a freedom you believe as imperiled because… well. And now, now you have to go back to work, but not before you are forced into testing. You log your protest again, but a paycheck is a paycheck. Then the tests came back.

You were clear, but you had been a carrier. And mom… she wasn’t. It was a long life and lived about as well as it could’ve been, in relative safety and sheltered from anything that might penetrate their worldview. Mother sat in the same pew every Sunday morning and used the same envelopes every week for her tithing. She liked cooking like her grandmother had made, and waxed poetic about the various applications of pork. Every holiday or birthday she sent store bought cards with Christian messages, words randomly underlined. 

You remember the times before. The times that you kissed your mother on the cheek, that you helped her up the stairs after her sciatica. You remember sneaking her cigarettes and smoking with her in the garage, the musty smell of stale tobacco clinging to every surface. You remember her warm embrace after you lost your job, her hand on your shoulder guiding you along in your youth. 

And there she was, withering away in a bed, coughing, so much coughing. And here you are, behind thick plexiglass, looking at one of the roughly 5% that you never truly believed in. Until now. 

The end came as it always does, lonely. In the past, you could’ve held her hand, listened to her last breath, or sang her a song. But now… now there is a maximum on who can be in the room at any one time. For health reasons, you’re told. You sit staring, a single cheek down your face. In these twilight hours, you know what you’ve done. You’ll never admit it, because you aren’t weak, and you won’t be told what to do. And now you’ll never know that touch again.