Prose/second place

Sweet & Vulnerable Earth-Loving Neighborhood in Covid Times


I live half a football field from Michigan Avenue. It’s the pathway to the Capitol, home of the biggest hospital complex, with a cancer ward for my partner and a heart institute for my sister. Signs proclaim: “Thank You for Your Hard Work.”

 I live in a neighborhood of immigrants and grad students, beauticians and restaurant workers, lefties and queers like me. We have cheap houses and pubs. It’s home, perhaps the only place around where I can be myself and raise a messy garden, and there is a Tardis food pantry outside our local bookstore.

 It is April 2020. Trump is up for reelection, and we are locked down due to Covid. Working from home, I hear a commotion and am propelled outside. Other years, I’ve cheered Take Back the Night Marches, but today I see a huge caravan with giant Trump flags, Confederate flags, Don’t Tread on Me flags. I don’t see guns, but my skin prickles.

They come from all over, militia men and partisans, with their red, white and blue. Pickup trucks flood the streets for hours, miles up and down Michigan Avenue. They block the end of my street and the streets before and after mine. They block the hospital.

Another woman comes out her door and we walk to Michigan Avenue to flip them off. 

Growing in the neighborhood are chickens, and organic farms. We have tiny yards, 33 feet wide, 130 feet deep. Some older, run-down houses have been knocked down; people are raising kale and chard and tomatoes and all that. Dozens of plots are nourishing us. A neighbor picks up compostables on his bicycle and replenishes the earth. Seaweed dragged from a nearby lake makes great fertilizer, and vast areas near the freeway are going wild. It might seem we are living in ecotopia.

But what if the invaders came back, with their AR15s and orders to clamp down, enforce white supremacy and straight 1950’s values?

What will happen to the two gay couples and the woman of color who joined me in silent defiance? The single white woman who is raising a child? My boomer neighbor who marched against the Vietnam war in the 60’s and still holds the faith? The Chinese immigrant who is rehabbing the house next door? The Hispanic man in grad school, or the black guys and white guys who didn’t know each other, but are happily renting next door? My red-haired neighbor who cohabits with her Greek boyfriend? 

Our sweet, earth-loving neighborhood would not go easily.


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