A letter to COVID-19
Gabriel Niforatos | Wednesday, April 22, 2020
It is not often we write letters to that which we despise, but you have touched so many spheres of life, impacted so many lives and changed so much that I find I cannot help but write to you. It is an understatement to say it is a chore writing to you. I hate it. It has become a tradition of sorts to write an end of year review for my last column, but anything I wrote would be remiss if it failed to mention you.
Little did I know dinner on Thursday at North Dining Hall with a senior friend was the last time I would see them, that ice cream at Lafun on a Wednesday and studying at Duncan Student Center would be the little moments we would remember as a goodbye. It’s funny. You have me playing and replaying the last few weeks before break to remember who I saw and didn’t see, recalling the breezy goodbyes and niceties we exchanged that would become our final farewell.
You have forced so many people to prematurely say goodbye, and now the globe is bursting with the potential energy of experience you pulled away. I will not be able to say goodbye to my senior friends in person, nor will I see some of them ever again, but how much more pain must they be feeling themselves? How much more for my older brother, who is a doctor, and all the other heroes who are on the front lines dealing with the ruin that you have left for us?
There is quite a substantial amount of gossip about you right now, and I imagine you are feeding on this chaos. There are those who seek to tie you down as a form of final punishment on humanity, those who falsely believe they can execute judgment on you. You are not alive nor dead, and yet there are those who infuse you with meaning, those who have taken your work as a new liberty for xenophobia and racism. It is striking how humanity seizes any chance to destroy itself.
I hope when quarantine ends, we all have a renewed appreciation for the little moments that escape definition but simultaneously define what it means to be human. This is a love letter to open spaces, to crowded cinemas, to holding hands in restaurants, to singing happy birthday to friends in their backyard, to visiting family in another state, to running in the rain to catch a taxi, to looking another human in the eyes and feeling that spark of being alive.
You may take away our ability to physically connect with one another, force us to converse across screens and shove us into isolation, but you cannot destroy imagination, creative power and the potential for empathy, solidarity and fortitude that sets humanity apart from all other creation. 2020 will live in infamy because of the ink blots you have spilled all over it, but it is my hope 2020 will be the year that we recognized how similar we all are, that all of us are at risk of falling under the thumb of fate, that all of us are isolated and in need of human touch. Call me a hopeless romantic.
As I lose track of the days spent in quarantine, after everyone has fallen asleep in my house and I am left with the solace of music, after the last dream island has evaporated from my imagination and stark reality is all that is left on the horizon, as I think of the best of times and worst of times with my senior friends, the words of one of my favorite songs by the classic rock band Yes come to mind: “Onward through the night / Onward through the night / Onward through the night of my life.”
These words form the chorus to a song entitled “Onward,” a song that was originally released in 1978 but is still one of the most contemplative songs I have ever heard. Let this song be the new song for commencement this year. Let us embrace the simultaneous expansiveness and smallness, connection with others in the midst of separation that is inexplicably woven into the chords of this song.
I have always hated goodbyes, but these words must be spoken. We all say goodbye to our senior friends each year, but this semester hits hard for me. I am a junior and I have countless friends that are graduating this year, friends who were with me since freshman year and have helped me grow and thrive in college. There are so many memories to recount, I could write an entire universe of columns devoted to every person who has added a mosaic tile to the person I am today. I want to confidently write that we will see each other once again, celebrate your journey and turn the page with joy. But these words come tinged with the bittersweet melancholy of farewells.
“Onward through this night of our lives.”
Gabriel Niforatos is a junior majoring in political science with minors in the Hesburgh Program in Public Service and Theology. He is passionate about giving a voice to the disenfranchised and writing is the muse he is persistently chasing. He can be found at [email protected] or @g_niforatos on Twitter.
The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.