Our planned officiant, Tim, was an old friend of mine I’d bonded with years ago in California, when he was involved in the Occupy movement in Oakland, my postwar traumatic stress was peaking, and the world seemed especially hostile. Before we decided to postpone, he’d developed his own contingency plans. Rather than buy him a plane ticket, I would rent him a car, and he would drive in from his home in the Bay Area, with an overnight stay in Kingman, Arizona. Going over these plans, I voiced concerns about his physical safety: Given the White House’s “Chinese virus” and “Kung Flu” rhetoric and increased attacks on Chinese Americans in the Bay, this might not be the best time to be a Chinese American lawyer and activist seeking a room for the night in Kingman, the town that incubated Tim McVeigh.
“Don’t worry,” Tim told me, “I have my concealed carry permit.” He said he’d noticed a new demographic looking at Glocks and Kimbers in his local gun store: worried Chinese grandmothers. The air of quarantine-era America was putting out an Occupy-like vibe to me.
Postponed wedding blues aside, we—Toni, my stepdaughter, and our two dogs, Bella and Bear—can’t complain, here at home in Arkansas. I get up late, read the news, note the medical studies, watch the briefings, but I’m nowhere near the front lines of this war on germs. I’m not a Walmart cashier in Washington, a phlebotomist at a New York City hospital, or an Army nurse in Fort Lewis. I’m OK, even if I haven’t hugged my mother, who lives 15 minutes from me, in two weeks. I do worry about my sister, who is delivering school lunches to kids in her school district. I want to thank her for her service.
The way this country looks on TV in this pandemic feels artificial, unreal—the way the world looks in an eclipse’s light during the final totality. Spring is here, tulips are up, and it feels wrong to write breezily how bummed I am that our matrimonial party wasn’t possible. Elsewhere, people are struggling for breath, losing loved ones, out of jobs, worried about finding steady shelter, affording health care coverage, filling cupboards, and paying bills.