The stress is perfectly real, a buzzard bird at the throat, and if you sit here long enough, you will be scratched by rough-hewn talons.
Out of the corner of your eye, you intuit a mouse running near your chair, and swiftly move your head to spy it: It is not there. It is only a trick. A skitty-skatty hoax played on a pinned-and-needled mind.
Driving home, you grip the steering will, not trusting that you won’t make a stabbing, veering crank right off the bridge, or into oncoming traffic.
Tell yourself to breathe: breathe slowly, with measure. Calm down. You are fine.
Are you fine? The virus-y breath on the back of your neck whispers ‘sure you are.’ What is this feeling? (The professionals on the night’s news talked about fatigue, and fatigued, you cannot not watch – you flip to your favorite talking head.)
An alert on your phone coos a zzz-zzz, a vibration to let you know of another problem close by – the power is being turned off, there’s smoke drifting in from the fires. This part of town is closed due to protests. Someone is stealing BLM signs. And someone was conked over the head walking to work, for no apparent reason. The local news sighs and rolls over – make room, here comes the big stories, the day’s highlights:
There’s Russian interference. Do you think there’s voter fraud? Claims of USPS corruption. Hospital beds are filled again. The Dow Jones plummets. Hurricanes. Homeless. Relapse. Hoarding. Furlough.
A tickertape newsreel of misery unfurls, nightly at 7pm. Change the channel. Oh, misery there, too. Where to look now?
(On Facebook, a post by someone you don’t know very well, haven’t spoken to in 20 years, you can’t remember her face very well, even. Her uncle has died, she posts. You swallow, make a donation on GoFundMe.)
Bracing yourself for whatever the news is going to deliver next, you hear the same question over and over, it wants an answer, but you don’t know what it is. The question is unsatisfied, and it gets louder every time it is repeated: “Where is my country? Where is my country?”