I’m going to preface all this by stating I am not a dog person. I am aware this is ironic. I’m not a cat person, either, if that was your next thought. I have no idea who I am. I don’t think I ever will. But going back and telling everything as it happened might make things less confusing for me...I’m going to start when I died. Metaphorically.
I was traveling to Canada. I was between flights in a city I had never been to.
I bought an extra strong coffee at the Starbucks inside the airport and was charging my phone when the, for lack of a better term, shit hit the fan.
I got a text from my sister first, asking if I had seen the news. Instead of answering I pulled up my go-to site, not expecting anything in particular. But there it was in obnoxiously loud letters: VIRGINIA IN QUARANTINE DUE TO UNKNOWN VIRUS, or some sort of clickbaity thing. I clicked on the article as a voice came on the airport speakers saying all flights were postponed until further notice.
“What did she say?”
“What the hell?”
Crowds formed around the wall mounted TVs. The only other person in the cafe was the barista and we looked at each other.
“Do you know what’s going on?” she asked me, like I would know.
“No,” I said. And then, to be polite, “Do you?”
“I don’t. But something smells off.”
I leisurely picked up my coffee and watched the airport through the window. The poor woman behind the information desk was being flooded with concerned fliers. Everyone else had their head down, tapping away at their phones. Texting relatives, reading social media, trying to understand what was happening.
“I’m gonna get my phone,” the barista told me. I looked down at my own, which had five new texts from my sister.
i’m sure everything is okay
She was trying to reassure me. This was when I knew it was bad.
The subject of Where You Were is a popular one around the fire, hands on weapons and eyes shifting to the all-encompassing dark. A lot of people are angry at their past selves for not taking things seriously, choosing to focus on little details like how slowly they reacted. The fact is that most people can’t believe when something truly bad is happening to them. It’s statistically uncommon, and the social pressures of acting normal keep people from taking action that could be seen as inciting panic. There was no reason to assume the worst when you could worry about missing a meeting or cooking dinner instead. Which is where a mindset such as mine comes in handy. You see, I had no predilection one way or another.
Which is to say, I don’t care.
The barista and I looked at each other again. She had a muddled expression on her face. I’m bad at that kind of thing, but it almost looked determined.
“I suggest you end your shift early,” I told her, and began packing my bag.
“Why?” She didn’t sound annoyed but cautious.
“Because there is a young lady by the pretzel stand who's foaming at the mouth.”
The barista pressed a switch under the counter and the metal security doors to the Starbucks came rattling down with a screech, accompanied by the first scream.
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