My husband, Kevin, and I started measuring our potential Covid risk in unit of dogs: Dozer, our neighbor’s slobbery mastiff, is the equivalent of being drunk in a crowded bar and throwing your head back in laughter, your open mouth a soft landing for heavy droplets sinking through the moist air; Bear, my sister-in-law’s golden retriever, is like eating inside your favorite restaurant catching up with an old friend, an indolent dinner that prompts your waiter again and again to ask if you need anything else, and you shake your head no as tiny particles dance across the table; Xander, our beagle, is comparable to waiting for coffee in a long line of people who creep up slowly, arms outstretched like zombies, their paper masks slipping down their noses and fluttering when they breathe; and then there is Jonathan, our friend’s miniature pinscher, a quick trip to the grocery store, early on a weekday morning, when the aisles still smell faintly of bleach.
So when it all becomes too much, when I can’t leave the house - just to feel the sun again as I lie on a vast and empty beach - when the thought of it makes me cry and shake, when my chest closes around my juddering heart, Kevin reminds me that it is not even at a Jonathan on the our Covid Risk Assessment Scale. Barely the size of his nubbin tail.
Then, I breathe and walk out my door.
Cristina Flores received a B.A. in English from the University of Texas and an M.A. in English from the University of Vermont. Her work has appeared in Hippocampus, Pomme Journal, and Thin Air Magazine. When she isn’t writing, she teaches literature, creative writing, and philosophy while earnestly trying to start her new and productive life.