Flash Fiction Friday – Slice of Pandemic Life

Excuse the blithe title, I couldn’t think of what else to call it. Just a little snippet, plucked right out of my day. Maybe not a story as such but oh well. Enjoy!

Slice of Pandemic Life

“Whole family went in,” the man in front of me says, nodding toward the tent. He holds his palm up to me. “Five people. Take a while.”

“Yeah, I saw,” I respond, trying to sound extra friendly because between the mask and the hood, there’s no way he can see I’m smiling. 

“Almost there,” he says, and I wish I was better at small talk like this. I like being left alone in public when I’m on my way, but I like the sort of interactions that happen at times like this, when strangers are doing the same thing apart, together. Grocery stories, waiting rooms, queues. I want to be talkative and charming, a counter-weight to the stereotypical Swede who dresses in black and is quiet and aloof, scowling at unexpectedly being addressed. I have the colorful wardrobe down pat, but socially I’m a triple threat—an anxious, self-conscious Swede. Today, with the ache in my joints and the soreness in my throat, I don’t have the energy to duck and weave past the obstacles of social, psychological and cultural conditioning enough to be that me

I nod and smile, and inside of half a minute he is talking to an on-site translator, three languages at once of which I understand too. I daydream of cutting in, in my awkward, amalgamated Arabic. One day, but not today. We’ve been queuing two meters apart for a little over an hour, moving forward in starts and stops when someone else is called into the tent. 

Soon, it’s my temporary companions turn. I nod at him as he moves out of the queue,  step up to the very front of the long, snaking row of orange cones, and wait.

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