The Quarantine Question

How has the past year's quarantine affected your professional life?


Viruses are a parasitic, constantly mutating horde. They, along with fountains of banal pleasures, live in the farthest recesses of our dreams. Like everything we push to the shadows, viruses eventually emerge from the blinding whiteness and yell in our faces, “Wake up: the end is near!”

What ends when a viral colony swarms into view?

From the corner window I could see migrant sweat evaporate. Across the street, the newly minted preacher chanted a tempestuous sermon—repent, the end is near. My callous spirit watched suspiciously. I turned around and baked spinach bread. By the time a million people were dead I was adept at selling chocolate muffins and lemongrass-infused moonshine. I was shameless. The virus cloud provided the perfect vestiture for a deliciously profitable message: the end is near, indulge your gut. From the corner window, I saw myself turn—turn into a merchant of exotica.

By the time I walked to the other window, sweat had ceased to evaporate. It was now heavily pregnant with color. Red coated the streets. I stepped into the kitchen; I couldn’t afford to pay attention. I am now a professional peddler who sells the small luxuries that enable the ones who stand on this side of the window to breathe without hunger. A million more have died.

BEATRIZ E. BALANTA, cultural critic