My Close Encounter with the Phantom of the Coronavirus

By Vicente Morín Aguado

Hand sanitizer at Walmart.

HAVANA TIMES – I work outdoors here in Miami; these days are hot and I carry out my work in a certain solitude, far from the sneeze of others.

But I can’t avoid the bus twice a day, going to work and coming home. Today, when riding the last one back home, I avoid even grabbing the handrails, reaching a seat in the third row behind the driver. We were scarcely four people in the bus, however, right on the other side of the aisle, a woman coughing head down caught my attention.

I began to pray that an inopportune new passenger would not appear at the next stop and thus shorten my stay in that rolling compound. I’d be getting off quickly.

The poor lady could not control her cough, accompanied by some phlegm and I could hear the fluid sound in her nose. I felt more than I heard from her tears when she took the phone, explaining her delicate situation to someone she fully trusted, which I didn’t understand very well as she spoke in a low voice mixed with sobs.

The cough continued, a symptom so repeated by doctors when talking about public enemy Number One, officially registered as Covid-19, so I decided to move.

Until then only a glimpse of my right eye had observed the desperate woman. I didn’t dare look at her head-on, I thought it would hurt her overwhelmed sensitivity if I did. The same thing was getting up, which I finally accomplished in a stealthy slide forward when the vehicle was already approaching my bus stop.

I swear I managed to keep my balance without touching handrails, grab bars, or any other part of the bus. I looked down without turning, heading for my apartment like a horse who got the proper kick.

Stairs without touching rails; doorknob protected by my handkerchief; backpack that I dropped on a piece of furniture, ending up in the bathtub with the hot water attacking my body. Even the watch was bathed this time, luckily the Japanese make the Orient waterproof.

I pray for the cough lady, wishing her perhaps a slight cold or an occasional allergy to air conditioning. It will be my consolation.

At the beginning of this day, I occupied the minutes of waiting for the bus, browsing in a nearby Publix store. They had placed a container with hand sanitizer for each person to wash their hands before entering.

The same has been done by other food chains, literally invaded by an avalanche of anxious buyers to the point that, in this country of infinite abundance, the afternoon has come with empty shelves at the powerful Walmart.

This morning I saw a police patrol outside the supermarket. Abundance is not capable of eliminating people’s unease.


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