COVID dreaming: Where do we go from here?

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Nicole Ong

This is the way the world ends. This is the way the world ends. This is the way the world ends. Not with a bang but with a whimper.” – “The Hollow Men,” T.S. Eliot

For Lynbrook students, the quote rings true. Our lives as we know it shredded to pieces with a fourth period announcement and later headlines of a seemingly endless shelter-in-place; we were thrown into quarantine as the regularity of daily life is pulled out from underneath us. 

Now, we do not cower in fear of raining bombs or nuclear destruction, but shelter from a 120 nanometer virus which has threatened to rip everything from our grasp.  In this pandemic, the losses come slowly, and so does the grief. Where is the fire and fury when the threat takes us hostage from the inside?

This is the way our world ends, not with a bang, but with a whimper.

There is no closure in a situation like this. There is no love, no mercy, no promises. There is no end, no beginning, no “back” button, no way to know who or what we will lose. We are left cycling through emotional hellfire, and with every email and update beginning with “unprecedented” and “unforeseen,” we are left with no map in hand to navigate with. This end is not quick and painless, it is agonizing and never-ending — the mounting uncertainty kills us before COVID-19 will ever touch us. 

How do we move forward like this? How can we plan a future when tomorrow’s reality isn’t guaranteed? How do I handle that now, not even my flesh and blood are mine to control, instead at the mercy of a microscopic tyrant? How do I grapple with the constant loss, the endless grief, the inexhaustible supply of  “this is the way the world ends”? How do we move forward? How, how, how?

We just do. 

I have cried, uncontrollably at times, losing the breath from my lungs and my grasp on reality along with it. I have been filled with inextinguishable rage at all that is happening, allowing it to seep into and sear my family life. I have shut myself off from all I love, searching for any semblance of control in a world where I have none. I have numbed my emotions and sedated my conscience to make this bearable, providing myself the illusion of handling this well. I have handled this anything but well. 

My heart aches, and it doesn’t stop. It won’t. But still, each day, I breathe. Knowing that there will be a day when I will see my friends again, where I can hug each one and share laughs over cups of boba. Knowing there will be a day when I can give my final goodbye gifts to my teachers, thanking them for their love and support. Knowing there will be a day when family reunion dinners are a tangible reality. Knowing there will be a day when this — our here and now — is not our end. 

I am clawing my way out of the emotional spiral that this threw me into, comforted only by the notion that this pandemic cannot be my end. Emotionally, we need not handle this well — for handling it at all is a burden we did not ask for — we only need to survive. There will come a day where we will not hold our breaths in fear of becoming another COVID-19 statistic. There will come a day where our exhales will consist of an “I love you” or a “See you tomorrow” whispered after a hug, not stolen words from six feet apart and the looming certainty of uncertainty.  

There will come a day where this is not the way the world ends.

And, dear God, I am living for that day.