I would want to go to a concert — any concert. I wouldn’t even mind if
I were unfamiliar with the artist performing. Nothing comes close to
the excitement I felt getting ready with my friends, blasting music
and singing at the top of our lungs while dancing around, switching in
and out of outfits, naively thinking that the perfect outfit meant it
would be a perfect night. I miss the lively conversations that would
go on from the Uber ride to the line. How we would speculate about
what the concert would be like, cross our fingers that we’d encounter
no mosh pits and eventually start a conversation with the people
behind us. Settling into our seats and waiting for the concert to
begin was actually one of my favorite parts of the night. That feeling
of anticipation that literally brings you to the edge of your seat,
waiting for the lights to go out and the powerful screams of the
audience. And once the show began, the shameless dancing to the music
and the palpable connection between the audience and the performer
allowed me to fully experience life in the moment.
But what I would love the most about a post-COVID-19 concert is finally getting to interact with people without a mask. Being able to sing and dance without being afraid to bump into someone. Seeing people’s excitement and happiness on their faces. I would give anything to finally experience something live again, rather than through a screen.
Back to “normal” is what they’ll say. There will be no more masks. No
more temperature checks. We’ll even have the chance to travel safely
again. But will life really go back to how it was before? Everything
I’ve learned during the pandemic will remain at the forefront of my
brain, and the habits that I’ve adopted will never truly leave my
routine. I probably won’t ever stop sanitizing my hands after touching
anything outside my home, and forget about taking public
transportation without a face covering — not going to happen.
Take bowling alleys, for instance. At one point, they were one of my family’s favorite places to visit. Now, I can’t believe that we didn’t come home each time with a brewing infection. When the alleys were up and running, we all voluntarily stuck our fingers into unsanitized bowling ball holes touched by a plethora of people before us, then ate finger foods like french fries and chips with those same exact fingers. These thoughts alone turn the insides of my stomach relentlessly.
But bowling alleys aside, if the pandemic ended tomorrow, I would be able to take solace in a few things. When I had to say goodbye to my parents and head to college for the first time, I cried the entire plane flight — I’m the definition of a homebody. Heading back to school after quarantine was never going to be easy, but knowing my dad has a serious heart condition, I found it almost impossible. If COVID-19 was over, my days would no longer be filled with anxiety for my dad’s condition as he fearfully avoids traveling, grocery stores and sometimes even walks in the park.
Being a full-time student-athlete whose best friends are her parents makes being homesick that much harder. I miss taking runs with my mom, having late night talks with my brother or playing board games with my dad on our porch until the sun set and we realized we couldn’t see the pieces anymore. Every day I regret each dog walk I skipped or each hangout my parents suggested that I was “too tired for.”
If tomorrow I woke up and the pandemic was over, I think the first thing I’d do is fly my parents out to Evanston, have dinner with them and hug them without the fear of spreading COVID-19.
My mother works in a hospital. It’s not intensive care or the
emergency room, but her job keeps her busy. I couldn’t visit her
during the pandemic. With my asthma and my grandmother at home, that
was a bad idea. I never realized how much I enjoyed the visits until I
couldn’t do them anymore.
But in a world without the risk of getting sick, I would grab my bicycle and start the 2-mile journey. This used to be an excursion, a reason to leave the house. In reality, it’s just distance — a few miles until I can spend time with my mom before flying back to Evanston. After passing through the hanging branches of evergreen trees in Miami, I would spend an hour or two in a hospital lunchroom. In this freezing cafeteria, eating apples and saltines, there are few masks. Only doctors and nurses would need them now. The moment is surreal; I’m used to seeing masks as an accessory.
In this hypothetical world, on my way home I would drop off my bike in my garage and engage in a conversation with my grandparents. My nono could visit us, if he managed to board a plane from Venezuela. During the pandemic, this would have been impossible — not to mention economically irreconcilable. And like my abuelas, he didn’t get the chance to see me off to college. In the real world, I stayed home, and once Winter Quarter came around, only my parents were there to drop me off and give me a brief goodbye. In a world without COVID-19, a long weekend would become an opportunity for my grandparents to see Chicago and to experience college through their only granddaughter.
In this hypothetical world, the Caribbean-blooded crew would hate the Evanston snow, and for as long as they’re here, I know I’d never hear the end of it. My phone would overload with an onslaught of pictures, messages and WhatsApp voice memos from every Venezuelan within a 5-mile radius of Miami-Dade County, telling me how excited they are to hear about my college adventures. Once at my dorm, North Mid-Quads, my abuelas would get into a discussion about the architecture of the sorority quad while I would get distracted by the congregation of people in the lounge. The chairs would multiply, and my friends and I could share a group hug, unanimously lamenting about having to wake up earlier to walk to in-person classes. In this hypothetical world, my family would only be able to stay in Chicago for a few days. My nono doesn’t live here, and he couldn’t stay forever. But I would walk with them around Evanston, and we would sit down to eat at La Cocinita, the Venezuelan restaurant across from Whole Foods. I’d like to settle into the possibility of more moments, sitting and talking with my family, finally feeling normal again. My parents and grandparents are vaccinated now, so maybe with time, I won’t have to write in hypotheticals.
Mi mamá trabaja en un hospital. No es carga intensiva ni sala de
emergencia, pero igual se queda ocupada. No la podía visitar durante
la pandemia. Con mi asma y mi abuela viviendo en mi casa, eso era una
mala idea. Nunca me di cuenta de cuánto disfrutaba de las visitas
hasta que ya no pude hacerlas.
Pero en un mundo sin el riesgo de enfermarme, me montaría en mi bicicleta para empezar mi viaje de dos millas. Esto antes era una excursión, una razón para salir de la casa. En realidad, solo es distancia, unas cuantas millas para pasar más tiempo con mi mama antes de regresar a la universidad. Cuando llegó al hospital, yo pasaría una o dos horas en un comedor de doctores. En esta cafetería chiquita y helada, comiendo un gran almuerzo de manzanas y galletas, hay una colección de máscaras. Sin la pandemia, solo doctores y enfermeras lo necesitan. El momento es raro; estoy acostumbrada a ver las máscaras como accesorio.
En este mundo hipotético, en camino hacia mi casa dejaría mi bicicleta en el garaje y converso con mis abuelos. Mi nono nos visitará, si pudiera obtener una visa y volar de Venezuela. Durante la pandemia, esto hubiera sido imposible y totalmente improbable. Pero como mis abuelas, él no tuvo la oportunidad de verme entrar a la universidad. En realidad, me quedé en casa, y una vez que llegó Winter Quarter, solo mis padres me dejaron brevemente. En un mundo sin coronavirus, un fin de semana largo se convertiría en una oportunidad para que mis abuelos conozcan a Chicago, y para que tengan la experiencia de “college” en los Estados Unidos con su única nieta.
En este mundo hipotético, en Evanston los de sangre-Caribe estarían molestados por la nieve, y se que no se cansarán de los comentarios sobre el frío. Mi teléfono sería bombardeado por fotos y mensajes de voz en WhatsApp de todos los venezolanos en Miami, emocionados de saber sobre mis aventuras en “college.” En mi residencia, North Mid-Quads, mis abuelas discutirán sobre la arquitectura de los edificios academicos, y yo estaría distraída por la congregación de mis amigos en el salón. Con más sillas y menos restricciones, nosotros compartiremos un gran abrazo. Juntos pudiéramos lamentar la tragedia de tener que levantarnos más temprano para caminar a clase en persona.
En este mundo hipotético, mi familia solo podría quedarse en Chicago unos días. Mi nono no vive aquí y no podría quedarse para siempre. Pero yo caminaría con ellos por Evanston, parando para sentarnos en La Cocinita, el restaurante venezolano frente a Whole Foods. Me gustaría asentarme en la posibilidad de tener más momentos, hablar más con mi familia, y finalmente volver a sentirme normal. Mis padres y abuelos están vacunados ahora, así que tal vez con el tiempo no tenga que escribir hipotéticos.