“Your eyes look great. Just like last time,” said my ophthalmologist as she moved aside the slit lamp and turned on the light. “That burning in your eyes is related to dry eyes—These drops should help, in time.” The cheerfulness in her voice soothed the disconnect from the world around me.

Housebound since before the pandemic, I had no experience of its upheaval. As I stepped from my front door with my helper, I sensed a different kind of heaviness, unrelated to the heat and humidity. From her air-conditioned car, my concerns mounted: crabgrass cracking the roads, $1.87 for a gallon of gas, slow-moving cars, empty parking lots, no rush hour traffic, no congestion on the highway straddled by four-foot weeds, pots of scraggly petunias affixed to overhead streetlights near the medical center, no congestion at Valet Parking near the entrance, and one wheelchair-sized-revolving door closed.

After helped into a wheelchair, my portable oxygen and mask in place, I breathed deeply and looked around. We moved through the other revolving door toward the masked staff who screened us, took our temperatures, then affixed labels to our shirts. Only a handful of masked patients in the lobby, only two allowed in the elevator at a time, only one patient and helper admitted to the doctor’s waiting room—the chairs positioned at odd angles, the side tables stripped of magazines and pamphlets, the lighting subdued.

It felt like a war zone gritting its teeth toward an invisible, but deadly foe; the outcome, uncertain.

Only later when my shudders quieted was I able to dredge up words to wrap around the outing: disconnect/chaos, words also associated with active dying. I’m not there yet, but it’s coming…

We pray, “Mercy!”