Written by Aniket Duggal. Edited by Eden Gringart and Rachelle Kasilag.
Artwork by Thanh Le.
Crowds of people came together, protesting the government mandates. Thousands of signs demanded immediate reform and challenged authority, almost deafening in its intensity. The air was thick with spit, sweat and tears. I was helplessly dragged by the crowd and could only pathetically stare down at the sign my parents had shoved into my hand before joining the protest—NO MASK MANDATES!
“So what? Is the World Health Organisation in on this ‘liberal lie’ as well?” I demanded at dinner later that day.
“You’re way too young to be talking about this stuff, son,” my dad replied, taking an assured sip from his glass of ginger and honey. “So tell me how’s school going?”
“I don’t get it! How do you expect me to go and live by myself at university in a year when you keep treating me like I’m a child? How do you think ‘they’ managed to recruit the World Health Organisation into this ‘hoax’ of theirs?” I retorted, slamming my fork down in frustration.
My dad sighed. “You won’t understand the truth. But if you really want to know, those slimy liberals have got their talons sunk into everything. This has been carefully under operation for years, so obviously they got all the massive organisations backing them up,” he answered, exasperated.
“We don’t expect you to understand, of course,” my mom chimed in. “Some things you just learn with experience, honey, and you haven’t experienced a drop of the real world.”
“I’ve literally presented hundreds of figures showing the numbers, but you guys just keep ignoring them! Do you really think that idiot knows what he’s doing? He thinks he’s the epitome of intelligence and that every single scientist in the world is out to get him!” I yelled back, my frustration turning into anger.
“Okay, that’s enough out of you! I better not catch another word of politics coming out of your ignorant mouth. Go to your room!” my dad yelled back, finally locking eyes with me.
I stormed up the stairs and slammed my bedroom door behind me. My emotions were getting the better of me, so I decided to pick some clothes out for tomorrow and sleep my worries away.
“Oh my! I know my own son isn’t falling for the filthy lies around him!” my mom screamed the next morning, grabbing the mask stuffed in my back pocket right as I was walking out of the main door.
“Mom, please! Wearing a mask doesn’t hurt anybody even if the virus is a lie!” I cried, reaching for the crumpled mask but she merely shoved it in her pocket and pushed me out the door. I stumbled onto the porch in despondence and trudged to school, trying my best to avoid getting close to anyone on the way.
None of the teachers at school ever noticed my lack of a mask—I simply blended in with all my classmates who didn’t have one either. Halfway through the day, I couldn’t take it anymore. I went to the nurse and claimed I had a splitting headache, forcing her to send me home. I walked back, somewhat relieved, and opened the door to my house as quietly as I could, sneaking up the stairs as the noises of my mom gargling water faded behind me. Weird. I had never seen her gargle before.
I dropped my bag against my bed and pulled out my laptop to check the live updates on the virus in my area. The numbers were shooting up—just a week ago we were in the hundreds, and now we had over five thousand cases. I scoured the internet in hopes of finding something, anything—graphs, tables, charts, percentages to try and appeal to my parents, but I had already shown them nearly everything I could. Nothing would crack my parents’ impenetrable wall of ignorance. I took a sip of water from my bottle to try and relax the irritation that had just manifested itself in my throat.
Feeling an uncomfortable pressure in my chest, I put my laptop down and let my heavy eyelids rest.