Love in the Time of the Coronavirus | THE LAST FLIGHT
These are our stories of love during a global pandemic.
Tavey Lin of the Tavey Lean and the Solid Gold Dream Machine fame is like a tumbleweed. Shuttering 4Corners (the Beijing equivalent of the Cheers bar "where everybody knows your naaa-aaame"), he fled China and the coronavirus. For the love of his parents Tavey didn't go home, hoping to keep them safe.
Weeks later, he is still on the move.
February 7th, 2020
Hi guys. Been hiding away in Detroit for a few days now. Lots of questions about my flight in and the state of the quarantine. My flight out was on the 4th of Feb. Apparently the 5th was the last day United was operating flights out of China, though I heard later from my sis that they moved the date up one day, so I guess I was on the last plane to SFO. Flight itself was pretty empty. I had a middle seat but luckily the window seat to my left was unoccupied, so I scooched over and shared the middle empty with the elderly fellow next to me. He was, like everyone, in full mask mode. He also had gloves on and wiped down his seat and the screen in front with disinfectants before sitting down and settling in for the long flight. About two movies in and halfway across the ocean, I started feeling an itchiness in my throat and also the pressing need to make use of the toilet. I took out my earbuds and made to wake the sleeping fellow to my right. That's when I heard the tapping. It was quiet, almost sheepish. Polite, even. It came from the other side of the window. Everyone else was asleep, it seemed. The gentleman to my right was wrapped up in a cocoon of blankets. His eye covers, mask, and earbuds blocking out all sensation. Again, I heard the tapping at the window. The plane had departed in the afternoon. This was one of those routes across the Pacific that would chase the sun for twelve hours and land before we had departed. Opening the shade would certainly flood the cabin with searing beams of stratospheric sunlight. Disturbing everyone aboard, drawing attention to me, even as I fought back the urge to let out a massive, phlegmy, paranoia-inducing cough. It was to my great surprise, then, that the first crack of the window shade and subsequent complete opening of the blind revealed only a dim, blue-green fluorescent glow. I found myself staring into a tiled room, lit by two long, struggling yellowed bulbs in a lamp on the ceiling. Even as I stared in disbelief, two long, silhouetted fingers crept across the window, then a whole hand. Then behind that hand, hair. White and unkempt. Then a forehead. Creased and pale. Shining with an oily moisture. Then under it two eyes. Bloodshot and wide with fear that reflected my own. Below those eyes was revealed only a pale blue surgical mask. All of this had taken place with a careful trembling that seemed to somehow match the jittering motion of the plane and everything inside. So I found myself face to face with my masked counterpart without a jolt or a gasp, but an incredulous terror nonetheless. A long moment we stared, pupil to pupil. Until the figure began to move away from the window. Still not looking away, it backed up to the center of the room and a solitary examination table. The figure, now identifiably male, was dressed only in a loose blue and white hospital gown. Barefoot, it supported its weight on the metal post of an IV drip which ran a bloody tube into its arm. He stared in wild wonder at me momentarily, and it was only then that I noticed the door on the left wall. It swung open in that instant and from it emerged two figures in bright yellow hazmat suits. The first began violently restraining the man at the table. The other produced a syringe of fluid and took a hold of the IV drip. The man was on the table now. I could hear nothing from this room, and his mouth was still covered, but his face. His face screamed. The suited figure holding him down seemed to follow his panicked gaze and turned to face the window. It released the man and stood up, facing me. The other followed suit, releasing the IV drip. The one with the syringe calmly walked to the window. In its visor I could see nothing. No reflection. Only blackness. With its free hand it reached toward the window. My hand instinctively came up in front of my face to protect myself. The hand hovered in front of the window. Could it see me? Would it break the glass? It stayed for a breath, then suddenly reached above the glass, grabbed something, and slammed it down like a shutter. Immediately the cabin was filled with blinding sunlight. My eyes shrank in pure agony. What had happened? I waited in confusion for my pupils to adjust, for the spots to fade. A voice behind me. "Sir, please close the window. Other passengers are trying to sleep." I turned. Through the colorless spots, a flight attendant was standing over the cocooned passenger in the aisle seat near me. I turned back to the window. Blue sky. White clouds. A distant ocean below. I pressed my face to the glass. All around, it was the upper atmosphere of the planet Earth. "Sir, do you need help?" I reached above the window and pulled down the shade. I kept it closed until just before landing. Pulled it up only to see the wing, the engine, the ground below growing ever closer. We disembarked. 20 at a time. Flight crew informed us that the estimated time through CDC and customs was to be about three hours. Would I make my connection? Once at the terminal, though, there were only three doctors present, asking politely if I'd been to Wuhan (no), if I'd been experiencing any symptoms (yes just some post nasal drip), checking my temperature (normal), then letting me pass. One asked me to move my bangs for the forehead temperature reading. "I still have bangs? That's good news." I quipped. We all shared a chuckle. Three hours my ass! I was Detroit bound. (To be continued)
Special thanks to Zovi for her contributing artwork!