Louis Fowler’s Pandemic Journal: The Viral Frontier

I think we all expected a world-destroying virus to be far more cinematic, with explosions and zombies and leather-clad bikers roaming a barren wasteland. Instead, the Coronavirus pandemic has just made life in Oklahoma City into a mostly grating, somewhat dystopic novel filled with closed businesses and constant bureaucracy.

While most restaurants, bars, and clubs were shut down by the city for the next month or so the night before—except for the good ol’ boys down at McFinn’s—most of us woke up this morning to a veritable ghost town, filled with emptier-than-usual streets as an atmospheric grey hue clung to the horizon.

I had to send some letters today. If you think being in a food desert is bad, try being in a postal drought; the nearest place to get postage for my few pieces of mail is about two miles up the road at the Classen Tag Agency, where my personal mailbox rests.

Over the past week, the hard-working women there have erected Plexiglas partitions to help protect them from errant hacking and other traveling particles. Trying hard to keep it to about ten people at a time inside, per regulations, I hope they don’t close but, you know, I think they’re going to have to eventually.

As I started the long walk home, I noticed that the only souls that dared to brave the open-air on this (eventually) sunny day were, of course, the people that have no home, walking aimlessly with their backpacks and bikes, clutching signs asking for a few dollars, many already coughing and wheezing.

Walking by many of these guys, I instinctually placed my hoodie’s sleeve up over my mouth and nose, even though it was probably too late to really do anything. And besides, even if I were to catch something, I wouldn’t know immediately, if ever; it seems that in Oklahoma, to even be tested for the virus, the few kits available are going to important people like state senators. I’m barely a writer.

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Crossing Pennsylvania, a news alert came over my phone, interrupting my mostly depressive late-period Leonard Cohen playlist; apparently, regarding phase two of the Coronavirus aid package—which provides free testing and paid emergency leave—Jim Inhofe and James Lankford voted against it. Those guys don’t give a damn if you or I live or die, do they?

Thank God it still passed without them.

In a strip-mall, they were cleaning out a field-office for some campaign that hired the area’s jobless to stop you in parking lots and sign a petition; you were probably hit by them three or four times a day, as I was. Regardless, I was walking by when the door opened and, as he grazed me, some dude sneezed in my naked face.

This is what we have to be afraid of now. “Welcome to Oklahoma City, the Viral Frontier,” I thought as thunderclouds gathered in the distance.

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Follow Louis on Twitter at @LouisFowler and Instagram at @louisfowler78.