Post-outbreak confessional, January 27th, 2020

by Blane Zhu

“Do You Have a Home? Do You Feel Warmth? Do You Know How To Care For Your Family?”

As I write this, entire cities in China are in lockdown.
People are trapped and unable to reunite with their parents.
Schools close. Markets close. Trains stop. Airplanes stored away.

Only things that are open:
Hospitals.
The constant flow of information between face masks.
My mouth.

Mother’s words
Strike me like a gong:

“Do You Have a Home? Do You Feel Warmth? Do You Know How To Care For Your Family?”

I don’t know why.
I don’t know how she managed to send this email,
Or why she needed to feel
A connection that couldn’t
Last for longer than a
“Are you ok”
Or “I’m just fine”.
I could just show her my face,
Or I could hide
Until tomorrow,
When she stops thinking about me.

“Do You Have a Home? Do You Feel Warmth? Do You Know How To Care For Your Family?”

I read the news again.
Spreads to North America. Thailand. Britain. Australia.
Death toll confirmed.
Authorities will “try their hardest” to respond.
Death toll rises.
First death confirmed in Beijing.

My home city.

“Do You Have a Home? Do You Feel Warmth? Do You Know How To Care For Your Family?”

I don’t know
What my parents are up to,
Where my relatives have traveled.
I don’t know if they made Jiaozi.
(They usually stuff a coin in one of them for good luck.)
I can’t see what they are seeing
On their screens,
In front of their eyes.
I am just an icon, a little red dot.
Meanwhile I turn to my calendar,
Refill my deadlines & due dates,
And hope that from now
until February 15th
I won’t receive another message that says:

“Do You Have a Home? Do You Feel Warmth? Do You Know How To Care For Your Family?”

I’m afraid I cannot answer. I don’t know the answer.
But I should apologize. I know I should.
The average time of my weekly video calls
Stands at about 30 minutes.
More than enough time to say hello,
To say I feel warm because of you,
To say I care about you,
To say anything…

“Do You Have a Home? Do You Feel Warmth? Do You Know How To Care For Your Family?”

But I didn’t.
I didn’t call last weekend.
Didn’t know what I was up to
Besides being who I thought I should be.
Didn’t feel. Didn’t read the news.
I tucked myself into a cloud
Until the arrow
Breaking in from the other side
Bearing the news
Shot me down in list format:

  1. What are you up to in your college process? Why don’t you tell us? Are we not supposed to care about your future?
  2. It is SPRING FESTIVAL. Why are you not reaching out to relatives?
  3. The coronavirus outbreak here is affecting everyone, yet we have not heard a single word of concern from you to your relatives. Do they have a place in your heart?

Do You Have a Home? Do You Feel Warmth? Do You Know How To Care For Your Family?