Creeps and pervs all over the place, and like I should expect something different considering the times. The chimes on my patio quiver with each circulation of my neighbor's air conditioner, and I wonder if I'm safe to sit out and watch the stars, or if I'm just breathing in Covid infused, smoke-filled air. At night I create digital content for my students, and on weekends I write lesson plans that I'm required to post in little folders for each and every day and upload to my learning management system. I barely have time to grade anything, but I assigned an essay for my dual credit kids and I have 65 students. That means I have 65 long essays to grade this week on top of the digital content, the folders, the honor society stuff, and the all around tough environment now that I'm forced to go back in the building. Next week I will drive the 14 miles to that building, go through a temperature check and facial recognition system, and then hibernate in my room for eight hours with my new mini fridge and microwave and still teach my students from a computer.
Outside the sun will shine, and at home my pets will be alone. My books scattered on every wall and corner of my apartment will sit on their shelves and miss me, as I will miss them. The cameras around my place will mindfully and suspiciously catalog the goings and comings from my street, and the cameras in the school hallway will track my occasional bathroom runs down the long and empty hallway. The hallways are basically empty because most parents are keeping their kids home because of the virus, but teachers still have to report even though the Texas Education Agency is still working from home until next year. That's what happens when you have a broken government; people are put in perilous and reckless situations, while the privileged few get whatever they need to keep them safe.
Even with all the terrible, reckless, weirdness, I have to admit that I enjoyed seeing all my coworkers in person again. They all think I'm kind of a snob, or maybe too nerdy. Most of them keep their distance, which is okay with me, especially now when I think how awful it would be if I brought some germs from my neighbor's air conditioner, or from the giant hookah pipe that fires up every night two patios down. Right now, in this moment, I am healthy in every respect. My mental health is okay, and my physical health is about as good as it gets for me...I am in the normal range for me. But, right now, I want to be honest with everyone; I am afraid. I really don't want to die with Covid. Even after working on the road for almost three decades alone, and if not alone, then not in the best company, I never felt this threatened by any disease, or any human.
I loved to drive and travel. I fell sick with a flu-like illness only once. My boss at the time drove out to get me in his pickup since I wasn't that far from the yard, and he chugged down one Marlboro after another with the windows up tight on that Texas panhandle morning. And honestly, I thought I would die. A true asshole, he was a classic. Even though he hates me now because I'm one of those "damn liberals" he seemed to care that I was sick back then. Nothing felt better than the rumble of my truck under my bare feet, but to punish me for getting sick on the road and needing time off, he gave my truck to some other person. As soon as I felt better, I was back out on the road in a bigger and badder truck working for a better boss, watching the sky make its rounds from early morning nutmeg colored glory to its shadowy, dark and blissful, creamy blackness.
Since I've been teaching, I've gotten sick with respiratory type illnesses on a regular basis. I think because schools are disease vectors, and I didn't have much immunity built up since I had spent the biggest part of my life running up and down the road alone. You would think truckers would be all diseased and sick because of the insidious nature of truck stops and road side diners, but no. The same holds true for stupidity or ignorance; most truckers are smart in an uncommon and crafty kind of way, and some are just plain well educated. After my child came and ended my perpetual aloneness, together we traveled endless miles in a parade of beautiful trucks. But, in the end, no matter what, we always end up handing our keys over to someone else. This time, I'm not ready.