Photo by 莎莉 彭 on Unsplash

I wash my hands until they crack,

until they start bleeding.

Almost clean enough to touch.

Almost dirty enough to hold.

Fifty or so times a day, I

squirt soap on my wet palms

and rub.

Fingers interlaced,

(the man sitting in his window across the street in his undershirt takes a sip of beer)

left dorsum over right,

(the SARS-CoV-2 spike proteins evolved to effectively target a molecular feature on the outside of human cells called ACE2, a receptor involved in regulating blood pressure)

thumbs between a fist,

both hands,

(blue jays jangling sweetly in the ficus branches)

palm to palm,

(the death toll in Italy stands at 5,500)

fingers interlocked,

rotational scrubbing backwards and forwards with clasped fingers in palm,

(all residents have been told to shelter in place, to only venture out for vital services)

and then rinsing well with water.

I sanitize doorknobs and other high-touch surfaces around the house:

places where a pathogen could have entered obscenely from a host.

Fresh fruits and vegetables are all washed with soap.

(Scientists discovered the virus is detectable for up to three hours in aerosols, up to four hours on copper, up to 24 hours on cardboard and up to two to three days on plastic and stainless steel)

Anything in a box gets slobbered with a Lysol wipe.

The outside world is obnoxious,


And horrifying.

I wash my hands and I wash my hands and I wash my hands and I wash my hands

I am still alive here.

A week ago seems like eons away now,

back then, when we could mingle without fear,

get within six feet of each other without the quake of terrible guilt,

go to work,

sit in traffic,

relax with a beer and watch an NBA game with a few friends,

or just walk to the grocery store.

We who are not sick yet,

We just wait and wait

To see what comes next.

They say the National Guard is coming,

That hospitals will overflow,

That hundreds of thousands will get sick,

That tens of thousands of those will die.


This is not Yemen.

This not war-torn Syria.

We are not battling for our lives in the desperate poverty of Sub-Saharan Africa.

We are worried about not being able to get our favorite brand of Doritos.

We are selfish and spoiled.

We are scared.

We are all staying indoors until further notice.

Perhaps we will flatten the curve and make it through.

Maybe we’ll all live up to The Social Contract,

help each other out,

and stay away from each other enough,

to make it through this together.

I wash my hands.

I wash my hands.

As the Emergency Economic Rescue Plan flails in limbo on The Senate floor.

As all the schools close early for the summer,

As the Stock Market tanks,

As the poorer among us worry about layoffs and missed paychecks and hospital stays,

As the well-off hoard and stow so much more than their fair share,

As the rainy days and the seasons come and go as usual.

I wash my hands.

I wonder how much longer we’ll go on this way?

Sheltering, isolated,

fairly comfortable,

taking naps,

watching movie after movie,

chatting with friends from a safe distance,

Purelling the hell out of our body parts.

I wash my hands,

saying, “Soap will save us all,

as it always has.”

I am not sure if I believe this.

There are currently 335,831 people infected around the world.

14,612 human beings are dead because of this virus.

There is nothing to do but wait

And see what happens next.

I hold my breath.

I wash my hands.

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