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©Elizabeth Fortier Levett, 2020


It’s been awhile now since this thing took hold. We’re well into our third month of mostly staying home. Funny how we’ve adapted and sometimes even enjoyed the quiet, the peace. It’s good to spend more time alone though I’ve so missed being able to be with my colleagues and my beautiful, brilliant little students. I go for walks in the park; there are so many people out there, taking time out from their laptops, each one all alone, walking or working out, trying to stay in shape while still staying safe. For some it’s not easy to be alone so much, to be quiet. Sometimes there’s a restlessness and rebellion in others that seems crazy and dangerous. I can only take the news in doses, shorter and shorter doses every day. We’re all afraid. But at the same time, we’re all in this thing together. It’s the same for all of us. At least that’s what they say.

It is a luxury to not really have to show up anywhere. Living each day has become so much more simplified. I’m only a little scared when I have to go out for groceries or navigate a narrow trail in the park. Most of the time we stay around the house. I do miss being able to go to a restaurant or shop with a friend, but most anything can be delivered these days. I can’t imagine having to be at work. It’s true, there’s been plenty to do each day. Distance learning – preparing assignments, meeting on Zoom just like everybody else in the world. Seeing all those faces together on the screen, though each of us is sitting at home by ourselves. I can work in the garden, or clean up around the house, or disappear into a novel on the couch. Safe, quiet, alone. But sometimes sleep is tricky. It’s warm and still at night and then there are those crazy dreams, dreams of violence and fear.

One day we decided to walk up to Target and look for new sheets – the soft cotton ones that keep you cool on these warm, still nights. There at the top floor check-out was a face I remember so vividly when the miniature version graced my first grade classroom with its presence. “Is that Dezaray?! Wow, you grew up to be so beautiful! You look just like your mom!” And she did. It was uncanny – Anitra at nineteen. Anitra, one of my favorite people ever. We worked together for several years. I taught four of her children and loved them all. I don’t think there’s a person alive Anitra couldn’t talk to, wouldn’t be willing to help in any way she could. Anitra and Dawayne had five children of their own at home, including little Dezaray, when they decided to take on two more as foster children. At one time there were nine of them, all together in that small apartment. The kids are all grown now and they still all live there together.

Anitra is one of the most joyful and fully alive people I’ve ever met and Dez is just like her. And it’s not just her stunning, gorgeous face, but also the open friendliness, the obvious competence. Brilliance and light in a five-foot-five-inch frame. And that smile! What we wanted to do was close in for an old-time hug. But nobody does that anymore. Plus, she’s not my little Dez anymore, she’s all grown up. “How’ve you been? How’s the family?” “Oh, you know, we’re all working.” What a treat to see her, I thought, as we stuffed our new sheets in my backpack and took off for home. The rest of the day yawned at us – sunshine, lunch, no place else we needed to be and nothing we really needed to do. And it feels so much safer at home, so risky to be out there in a store even for a little while.

That’s when my encounter with Dezaray became more than just a sweet moment between a teacher and a favorite former student. While I couldn’t wait to get back to the quiet of my house, Dezaray is working in Target all day, all week, to help the family. Anitra’s also working full time at the Y. Dawayne is driving a bus. We’re not all safe. We’re not all the same. And right about then, I felt the reality of my privilege. It slips itself around me softly like white summer sheets, never quite cool enough to help me sleep these warm, still nights.

©Elizabeth Levett Fortier, 2020


      Elizabeth Levett Fortier teaches little kids in San Francisco. She also writes and sings in the acoustic trio, Dreamchair Music with her husband David. More about Elizabeth can be found at elizabethlevett.home.blog or dreamchairmusic.com.

 

 

2 Responses to “All Together. by Elizabeth Levett Fortier”

  1. Darrell g.h. Schramm Says:

    Elizabeth, I very much enjoyed this. Well-written. Coming full circle at the end perfects the piece.

  2. bawpzine Says:

    Yes! The suffering is elsewhere… that’s a disturbing feeling…

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