In our afternoon reading: new writing by Saikat Majumdar, notes on grief and the pandemic, and more.
Josh and Sarah Are Still Missing
by Will Mountain Cox
Our authorities told us we had to be alone. Our authorities told us not to go toward the screaming. Or the crying. Our authorities told us to be worried. About one another. About what we were capable of doing. But beyond the masks, all we could notice was smiling. But we couldn’t help noticing so many people helping. But we couldn’t stop ourselves from admitting to seeing people giving up food to those who had none. But, people carrying bags of food for those who couldn’t lift the bags. People who usually bumped one another in hurry, making room for each other’s bodies and bags. It was uplifting, the intelligent flouting of our authorities’ recommended worry. We went bold. Our hands went raw from repetitive washing, all for the sake of intelligent flouting. All for the sake of remaining a clean part of community. We all noticed our hands rotting a little from the helping, and then we all commented on noticing. But after a month, things changed. Our authorities got to saying nothing would be the same. That we should accept that. No matter how much we’d noticed, we couldn’t stop ourselves from frightening. They told us we really had to stop helping. That it was unsafe. That it was, or else. One of our friends got the most afraid and listened harder. She went out only alone, to places with fewer and fewer people. She didn’t help, because she was good. People screamed and she didn’t help. She was a blessing. On one of her walks, out in the danger, she was stopped by the police. For her, it should have felt like a blessing in return. The cop said she was being unsafe, demanded her address and her number. We’d been promised those were normal questions. The cop said for her to message when she got home safely. It was for her safety. It seemed to make sense in the context. She said for herself to feel safe about it. She did what she was told. An hour later the cop messaged asking if he could come over later. At night. To check on her safety. And for a drink, obviously. He knew where she lived. He knew it for her safety. He reminded her of that. She messaged us, begging we come to protect her. But she was far away. Far enough that it was illegal now to go. Our authorities told us it was too dangerous to be legal. They said it was unsafe to help. We didn’t know what to do. We kept telling ourselves that we didn’t know what to do. We kept telling ourselves that everyone was acting so friendly. The authorities kept telling us that nothing would be the same. Only, we kept learning that nothing was ever different.
Late Capitalism with Ollie and Milena
by Will Mountain Cox
“I don’t have my camera.”
“Use your phone.”
I reviewed the images I’d been saving behind my eyes. Milena sitting with Ollie curled between her legs. Ollie sitting with Milena kneeling next to his feet. Ollie and Milena with their arms wrapped around each other’s shoulders.