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When winter began to change to spring people began to be represented by red dots on a map. While in some cultures red means luck and fortune, the red dots meant people had exhausted both. Doors began to close as those red dots multiplied, spreading like an unyielding storm. The concrete jungles once so full of life and commotion sat still as summer came. So ruthless and calculated, the Sun reached out with its fiery hands to send waves down black tar streets and start the annually inevitable battle against the shelters of families. The battle was accompanied by an orchestra of humming cars, air conditioning units, and cicadas; a new summer anthem. Store windows sat empty, few workers hands and even fewer funds to pay them with the new closures. The Higher ups knew this and so did those who worked under them.
Hands once firm and calloused from work became soft, as being isolated became the new reality for so many. As hands softened, the money in the bank accounts dwindled. One family drained of savings and unable to find work: the airconditioning becoming the new companion. I was laid off, there is no work. The companies don't care about me, I'm just a number. Men and women sit with their heads in their hands as they long for opportunity or a stimulus. They wait and wait for relief but it does not break with the heat.
School buses sit idle in parking lots, creating a sea of yellow. The heat pounding on the years old metal, creating a microwave for any relics left by the screaming children. Drivers in the same position as other thousands of men and women sit with their head in their hands, feeling alone but unfortunately not.
I have no job, there is no job to be done.
I don't want to work and I don't have to.
Screens illuminate a wide range of faces as humans try to hold onto the thin line of communication they have available to them. A student presents a slideshow in their home for the first time rather than in a cramped classroom under fluorescent box lights. Press play, please unmute me. Sir, you are muted. Suddenly it becomes a new survival of the fittest, as knowledge on how to use technology becomes essential for work and school. Is it on? Can you see this?
With all the change, the only certainty became that fall was after summer. Every year around the same time the ruthless heat is blown away by a cool breeze and green is transformed into a variety of oranges, browns, and yellows. The branches once hidden are exposed, long and twisting in unthinkable unique patterns reaching for the stars. As their colors change, leaves become brittle and crunch under the feet of the few that venture into the now quarantined public. Leaves and Facemasks; a new litter has emerged.
It has been months since the outbreak and health is still struggling, the public is getting impatient as scientists rush for new solutions. Mother just got sick. The neighbor just died. Did you hear about the vaccine? The yellow buses are back now. The public starves for the mingling they were once enabled for and the children are finally getting restless.
Finally, like a bloom, society reamerges. However, with cloth concealing half of a person's thoughts, communication changes. Nevertheless, society presses on.
The teapot at the coffee shop no longer sits idle. Its faint whistle fills the expanse as voices try to cover it in a hushed, polite tone. There are now hands opening the doors and filling the cups. Mouths drinking the liquid so thoughtfully prepared by the working hands paid minimum wage. Hands brushing other hands as they hurriedly reach for the coffee cup, rushing off to their nine to five job now in person rather than through a screen. The price of the coffee has increased a few cents but that doesnt matter to those hands because they need to make it through the day. But the remnants remain. Along with the masks, public service announcement posters are still posted and hand sanitizer stations became as common as a bathroom.
The red dots had once painted the states red like a blood stain. But the stain was not permanent. The men and women with their heads in their hands lift their heads. I have a job, I am part of society. The pain, the gnawing, stabbing pain felt by so many from being so isolated and alone started to finally give release. Society had felt the pain for so many months that normality was not known to them any longer. So many never made it to the end of the pain; normality could not be defined as the same anymore. This is the new normal.