“Dispatch from a Pandemic: Mount Pleasant, South Carolina” by Paul Rousseau

London’s Dreadful Visitation, or, A Collection of all the Bills of Mortality for this Present Year, 1665

March 14: 56 deaths

corona samMarch 15: 62 deaths

March 16: I’m a single breath from he is to he was.

March 17: 97 deaths

March 19: 175 deaths

March 27: 1592 deaths

March 28: Bodies pause in crowded morgues and refrigerated trucks, waiting. Obituaries, in small print, consume pages. A dystopian nightmare transfigured to reality.

March 30: The planet is crowded by mortality.

March 31: 3806 deaths

April 1: A day without symptoms is a morsel of comfort.

April 3: 7007 deaths

April 4: My neighbor, seventy-nine. A fever on arising, a dry cough by noon, a muddle of gasps by evening, a suffocation by nightfall. The wail of an ambulance agitates the night.

April 5: She’s tethered to the living by a thin plait of hope.

April 6: Life support withdrawn.

April 7: 10950 deaths

May 18, 2020

She is in the intensive care unit scraping along the edge of life. COVID-19 the diagnosis. I position my cellphone on the bedside table and dial her husband on FaceTime. She is a grainy, pixeled flesh struggling to breathe. The image is unsettling.  I love you, he murmurs. She glances at the cellphone; her lips quiver. Ragged sobs rise from his throat. You can let go now, I’ll be okay. Fluid bubbles in her mouth. She begins to choke. A sedative floods her veins; her eyes close, her body relaxes. She will sleep until she dies.

I approach her husband in the waiting room. He grabs my arm and pulls me close. I’m a widower now. He trembles and drops a cup of coffee. I don’t know how I’m going to live without her. We were together seventy years. He collapses into a chair. I cradle his shoulders.  Thank you for caring for her. She is…I mean, she was, a special woman. I say, She was special. I will carry her memory. He nods, positions his cane, and stands. Then he adjusts his face mask, gathers his belongings, and leaves, shoulders slumped, head bowed. I watch as he disappears into the dim light. A few moments later, the elevator door slams.


rousseau Semi-retired physician and writer, published or forthcoming in The Healing Muse, Blood and Thunder, Intima. A Journal of Narrative Medicine, Months To Years, Cleaning up Glitter, Burningword Literary Journal, The Centifictionist, Prometheus Dreaming, Dr. T. J. Eckleburg Review, JAMA, Annals of Internal Medicine, Canadian Medical Association Journal, Tendon, and others. Currently working on a collection of essays. Lover of dogs.