“It’s not social distancing, it’s physical distancing,” my mother chides from the screen she’s projecting from. “When you fail to come for the holidays or block me from your facebook account, that’s social distancing.” “Social media distancing” I say and shrug, although I’m out of view and she can’t see me. She can’t see that I’m chopping vegetables for her salsa all wrong. There’s too many chunky awkward onion pieces, the jalapenos are sliced too thick, the tomatoes too ragged; I won’t put enough chorizo in the refried beans for her liking either. I smile. Maybe I’ll even use that tofu chorizo? That hunk of fake meat stuck to the bottom of my fridge? She would never touch that. “Will you be wearing masks?” I ask as I heat up the oil to fry tortillas. “It’ll be outside and the breeze is blowing from the southwest, away from where we’re going to stand.” “How on earth do you know that?” I enter back into the screen for just a second to point my wooden spoon in her direction. She shakes her head. There’s the sizzle of oil frying as I place the first tortilla in. “Mija! Your oil is too hot. You’ll burn the whole damn meal.”“How on earth do you know that?” I lower the burner, she’s probably right. “Look at me Miranda! Come over here so I can see you.”Christ, she’s always doing this shit. I move in front of the computer camera and attempt a serious look.“People will be far enough apart. I’ll have your father make little circles on the grass like they’re doing in all the parks. Nobody has to go outside their bubble.”“But isn’t the whole point to dance? To move around?” “He’ll make the circles big.” “How many people?” “Fifty, maybe?” “Jesus, ma!”“It’s your brother’s graduation. From medical school. You have to come, we haven’t seen you in over a year.”I roll my eyes off screen. There’s a reason why my blood pressure is lower this year. “What are hospital admissions like in your state? You know the stats? How many people are on ventilators? What’s your seven day average?”“What are you talking about? We live in the middle of nowhere and that virus is only a blue state problem, anyway.”“You mean cities? It hasn’t been a city problem since New York.” My heart is pounding in my ear. “Look, if the President can hold a rally, then we can hold a small socially-distanced gathering for your brother. Besides, science is on our side.”“Is that because you’ve invited Tio Roberto?”“He’s an infectious disease specialist! And even he’s coming!” “So, no masks?” “You can’t eat and drink in a mask.”“Why can’t you just hold a zoom party like we did for my birthday last year?’ My mother glitched at me and her voice began to make a high pitched squeal followed by a pause. She was breaking up.
Shanna Yetman is an environmental writer and mother of two. She loves the short forms. She is a (City of Chicago) DCASE grant recipient, a New Millennium Writings award winner, and attended Breadloaf in 2019. She works for Loyola’s School of Environmental Sustainability.