Waiting

Doug and Marcy waited in the car, behind five other vehicles waiting in the drive-thru testing line. They clutched their respective phones, the rush and rattle of the vents the only sound between them as the air conditioning struggled against the record day temperatures. Doug looked up occasionally, to the protests across the street. He’d been stewing the entire two hours they’d been in the car, shaking his head, fiddling with the climate control, then turning back to his feed.

“You know,” he said, turning to the window again.

“No,” Marcy said. “Don’t start.”

“I just don’t get it, the world has lost its mind.”

Marcy glanced at her husband, her smirk hidden by the mask but her eyes giving it away. “Maybe you’ve lost your mind, and everyone else is perfectly fine?”

“Pfft. Doubt that,” Doug said.

Had Doug smiled it would’ve been plain to see, as he refused to wear a mask or even admit the virus was real. The masks had been point of contention on the way to CVS. The conversation started and ended the way most did these days between the couple of twenty-six years, with Marcy shaking her head, incredulous, wondering if her husband had always been such a schmuck or if it were merely something else going around during this godforsaken year.

It was uncanny, she thought, how well they’d gotten along when they were out in the world. Working in separate places, they’d arrive home in separate vehicles, have dinner, talk about their separate days, then go their separate ways on separate devices. Now, working from home while her husband was on a shut down, she‘d found that he lived on an entirely different planet from the one she did.

The didn’t agree on masks. On protests. Civil War Monuments. Climate Change. Even sports had become a point of contention. Marcy had been shocked the other day, signing onto the MacBook only to find an angry, deranged, grammatically incorrect version of America until she realized she was on Doug’s Facebook feed. She’d quickly logged out, but not before rebuking several of Doug’s friends’ political posts.

She was no closer to an answer when he started in on the testing again. Four cars ahead, the drive-thru window opened, and a feeble arm stretched to return a test. Doug drummed on the steering wheel.

“All I’m saying is, if you have it, I have it. Why should we both get tested?”

Marcy refused to even look up and lend credibility to such foolishness. Doug edged the car an inch closer to the bumper in front of them, as though it would get them to the window faster. Two hours in slow, grueling gridlock with her husband and she was about to wait on the curb in the triple digit temperatures. She could go join the protesters and risk the tear gas. It was preferable to this.

They’d been married in the mid nineties, a time of prosperity, peacefulness, the digital boom and parenthood leaving neither of them time to pay much attention to politics. The first split was Gore/Bush, but even then the arguments had been fun, harmless teasing and light-hearted ribbing on the couch whenever Bush stumbled and Gore stiffened. Even as the nation turned to Florida for answers, they’d simply gone about their lives. Then came 9/11, the ensuing middle east debacle and financial crises, the recession that followed. It seemed Barrack Obama was the splitting point. But no, that was nothing, Marcy thought now. Not compared to this.

The line moved forward a vehicle length only to wait again. Marcy took notice of the climate controlled settings. His at sixty degrees, hers at sixty-seven. Mask. No mask. 2020 was proving to be too much. The holding pattern, the second wave, the schools and all the phases. Her husband at home on the couch. The lack of diversions. The constant pull of social media. The harrowing newscasts. The unknown. And now a heatwave had joined the assault.

Just as well, Marcy thought, just wait until the hurricanes come. Their cruise had already been canceled, and Marcy wasn’t sure if she’d ever schedule a make-up date. She glanced at her husband again, still huffing and puffing, watching the protesters with a skeptical gaze. She thought about the Corona virus, about symptoms and sickness. About positive and negative results.

Either way, she thought, the damage was done. Test or no test, they were already infected.

 

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