“Anxiety is the handmaiden of creativity," wrote T.S. Eliot. To help make productive use of our self-isolation and social distancing, Lit Cleveland is offering free writing challenges each week via our newsletter. The following piece is a response to the Negative Definition prompt.
Pandemic Negative Definition
by Trudy Hutchinson
Lena watched for uneven surfaces as she crossed the street to the sidewalk. With each measured step, Lena wondered at the changes in her experience of the morning walk. She felt oddly grateful. She wondered if she should feel guilty about how easily she was able to adapt to the restrictions imposed by the pandemic. Did she welcome the restrictions? No. “Welcome” was too strong a word, wasn’t it?
Last week Lena’s walk to the corner was a contest against toned athletes who knew the rules and to whom she ceded her presumed advantage of seniority. Lena recalled the spike of alarm she felt when a single sound suddenly rose above the normal drone of traffic.
Lena stepped through the doorway and realized that a week ago service at the coffee shop was assured only when requested with an audible voice and an assertive movement. Back then it was understood that Lena’s advanced age was incompatible with a compelling “to do” list. Back then, the imperative of urgency outranked courtesy.
A simple walk can be a metaphor for life, can’t it? And life during the pandemic is not like lifelast week when strangers were obstacles and eye contact was suspicious. Yet even in the distant world of a week ago, personal encounters were safer if they were done electronically. Lena smiled at the irony. What remains unchanged is the danger of the outstretched hand.