By Jean Hoefling
On the blue side of daybreak, a woman already out for a morning walk with her dog veers as another woman power-walks toward her up the sidewalk. The woman reels in her little dog’s leash and yanks him into the middle of the street. “You’re killing people,” she shouts in a masked, muffled voice at the unmasked power walker.
The power walker stops as the accusation resonates in the quiet street, a harsh contrast to the mystical instant just before dawn. The brow of her hat sits low over sunglasses that are unnecessary at such an hour. She looks at the woman in the street, then speaks.
“Are you sure I am?” She’s holding her ground, but there’s the hint of a tremble in her voice.
The woman in the street repeats the charge while the dog and its leash tangle around her ankles. It is so quiet in the aftermath of the second wave that the swish of cars on the interstate a mile away can be heard.
So, will it be another immersion in the raging dichotomy over germs real and imagined? It is far too early in the day for this. But it will always be too early and too late for suspicion and assumptions. No one remembers anymore how things got this way; how the friendly spaces between too many souls narrowed so tight that truth and reason can’t find a place to breathe. Strife has become the expected norm. St. Isaac the Syrian said, “The sorrow caused in the heart by sin against love is more poignant than any torment.”
The sun slices into the horizon, dispelling the last hint of night. The power walker moves on without another word.
At summer’s turning point, some sunflowers are now as tall as second story windows. Their heads grow heavy with tightly packed, oily black seeds—too heavy for the faces of the towering blossoms to freely follow the sun across the span of the sky any longer. Now they bow humbly, their once cheerful petals shriveled, the better to bare that disk of nourishment to the birds.