Love in the Time of Coronavirus
Things change daily in this space. You acclimate to limbo. The constant state of not knowing. The latest proposal, they’re calling: “The new normal.” It’s a reintegration period as we dip our toes back into the murky water of regular life. The revealing of this grand plan makes no account of the latest numbers reported in the news, COVID skyrocketing in Latin America. The president urges people to get out of their homes, to infuse life back into the economy.
Meanwhile our friends in Mexico City tell us that people are being left dead in the street as there’s not enough space in the morgue to hold them. But sure, why not send everyone back to work? Perhaps in a month, we should even send the children back to school. Desperate urgency to not slip further behind. How far back does this fear go? My Latina friend blames the Mayan Curse. Scarcity and penance running deep in the bloodlines. I can’t comment directly, but I feel there’s something to what she’s saying.
Meanwhile we are here, with our boys, working to be safe and smart. We take them almost daily to abandoned beaches, water cleaner and clearer than it’s been the whole year we’ve been here. The only contact we have is the occasional man or woman on the street, pleading for money. We empty our pockets and hand over what we have. My oldest son is angry the day we don’t have money to give.
“But, mommy, that man be hungry.”
“I know, honey, and I’m sorry. Next time we’ll make sure and leave twenty pesos in the car.”
Abundance is a relative concept, now more than ever.
Last night I watched a press conference, fumbling for all the discernable Spanish I could access as the man spoke at rapid speed. I bet he was nervous. I’m nervous for him – not just for his speech, but for his karma. But there’s a kernel of transparency here, as when pressed on the issue, he responds, “This isn’t really a matter of choice, but a matter of necessity. We must learn to live and exist with this fear. Otherwise, if we do not, then maybe the virus will not kill us. But surely starvation will.”
There is no stimulus package coming. No unemployment. No 401k.
While all this unfolds, it has turned to the hot season. Many are hoping the UV rays will keep us safer, while others argue humidity is a petrie dish in which the virus can thrive and spread. All I know is that hot here is like nothing I’ve ever felt before. That’s saying a lot having grown up in the South and having spent half a decade in Southeast Asia. Mexican heat is like a kind of oppression, a thickness and density in the air that makes it hard to distill your thoughts. I imagine sometimes I could slice it and slip through an opaque curtain into a space and time where the air feels light on my skin, and I can breathe easier again.
Interestingly enough I’ve noticed that hardly anyone here sweats. They’re acclimated to the heat. They wait at bus stops, sun blaring down, masks covering their faces while I think how hard it must be to breathe the hot, stale air. Yet, there they stand in jeans and long sleeve shirts with not even a bead of sweat on their forehead. Meanwhile, my toddler, in the backseat, has a tiny drop of sweat fall from the tip of his nose.
There are so many things I hope I never forget about these days with my children. Certainly, the ironic gift that this whole dreadful virus has created is the deep immersion into their little worlds and plots, the deep immersion into a universe of play and imagination. That all this extended time with them might ensure I remember years later the first time my baby said his big brother’s name. The way Ezra was “Ewwuh,” because Z’s are hard when you don’t have all your teeth. The way my 4-year-old always counts 1, 2, 3, 5, 6, 10. The way he tells me how the sunset looks like raspberry lemonade. The way they are unphased by the heat, flying down the calle on their scooters, blond ringlets whipping in the wind. Little flecks of light between me and the sun. Brightness on the inside, even when the world feels like it’s going dark.
So much is uncertain. Sometimes I lay up at night reading articles about vaccines and statistics, trying to get my finger on the pulse of how to keep them safe. Because that is a mother’s job, right?
“Maybe you shouldn’t read that before bed, lovie,” my husband says gently without asking. He knows. This is my default when I am scared. I try to prepare, preparation turned art form, turned manic obsession. If this were the Cold War, I’d definitely have a basement cellar fully stocked. Maybe two.
Meanwhile we are here in the scorching sun, surrounded by water, learning to float. We’re in a bay that is home and serves as birthing center to thousands of baby turtles and whales every year. Will they come back again, despite this terrible virus? I sure hope so.
Amidst all the uncertainty and the challenge, there is an education or re-education unfolding. We are remembering how to be less busy. How to be, now. How to be in a space where google does not hold all the answers. We are remembering what childhood was like, or what it could’ve been. It is far from perfect. I am often scared, but I am not sorry.
Raised on a farm in rural Tennessee with evangelical parents, Micah Stover is a far way from home in Puerto Vallarta where she now lives with her husband and two sons. She is currently in the final stages of revision on a memoir, chronicling the path to heal PTSD with MDMA, psilocybin and guided psychotherapy. This piece depicts an unconventional life with small children living in Mexico amidst Coronavirus, and the attempt to find normalcy while also rejecting it.