Dear Future Daughter –
I’m writing in case we never meet—in case this virus reaches me before you do. The more the cases rise, the more I think about you and try to reach out for another person I cannot touch.
I picture your hands gripped around a Ticonderoga pencil as you’re filling out an assignment for your elementary school history class. It will be the assignment where you have to interview an older generation on something Important that happened in their lifetime. And I imagine your hair will be tawny brown like mine is, and maybe you’ll have one of those grippies around your pencil; the one you begged me to buy for you in the checkout line at Staples. And you’ll ask me what it was like in 2020, and what it felt like to be alive when the world was dying.
I will tell you about the silence. How the air was still, the streets were empty, and the parking lots had been reclaimed by the crows.
I will tell you it was hidden in the little things, all this dying. I saw it in the grimly headlined papers thrown at the end of our driveway by the weary driver of a weathered Toyota,
but I also saw it as one, then two, then three ambulances passed me on my morning run. I saw it in the eyes of the people I passed, the way they looked down and held their breaths when they saw me.
We were all choking on our own resistance to death. Some of us craved life enough to hide from it behind locked doors and windows and cloths tied behind our ears.
And if you ask again later, when you are older, I will tell you more.
The week of the protests, the demands for life to be sacred again. The hope chanted through all of us into the megaphones of the young, Black, Womxn activists, and how they too met tear gas and rubber bullets.
I will explain to you that the government left us to die. How they promised money and supplies and relief that never came. And I will tell you about all the times Politics with a capital P came up, and how many times I heard it said that No One Is Coming To Save Us. And I will protect you from hope, which never came either.
Hurricane Isaias came, and took out our light. The branches fell and locked us into our block, isolating us three times over. They charged us more for the power than they ever had before and then left us in the dark. It took them days to give the light back and clear away the bodies of the trees that used to shelter us.
And the people who used to shelter us, we lost them too. There was a beautiful girl with copper colored hair I saw every day on the way to my first period class. I missed her in the spring, I missed the feeling of other people pushing me along through the hallway, knowing I could not fall if they were there holding me up. I longed for the way it felt as someone’s hand brushed against my skin.
I will want to start crying in front of you, weeping, sobbing for everything that was lost that year. The silence and the flames and the wind and the touch, all of it will still be there under my skin, waiting to come cascading out.
In June, I went to an aviary. I saw beautiful feathers stuck in the wires of the fences, and talons that could have sliced the pale skin of my hands if I tried to get too close. It was haunting, all this feral beauty.
I’ve spent more time than I used to watching the birds in the yard as they preen in puddles and raise chicks under my window. And I think that when you come,
when I reach you,
I will call you Wren.
My Little Bird.
And your feathers will not be electric and your song will not pierce the morning, but it will still make me weep when I hear it.
You will not be displayed for the world to see and touch and adore.
But you will live.
You will survive.
You will endure.