“Dispatch from a Pandemic: Portland, Oregon” by Tor Lowell

dog lick
Irina Ruvinsky

corona sam

We step sideways, we slide, traverse in squares, dance in a maze. We stop long before the intersection, wait for the person crossing ahead. We walk in the center of streets, dodge cars, step in yards. We keep our dogs tucked close to our feet. We hold our breath, if the road’s too narrow.

Three people on a block is crowded, three people on a block means turn away, find another sidewalk, plain. We take our spring pictures hastily, gulp down the pretty days in rushed bites, note the passage of time, long and ungraspable.

 We overcompensate, we both cross to avoid the other, we calculate who will be the first and move the same way. We look long, but glance away, see everyone without eye contact. Warmth itself sounds like too much closeness, a kind gesture feels like it might touch our face. Our streets are the hush of churches, the sanctuary of forests, thick and muted.

So much care in our reserve. So much love in our expressionless faces. When we step aside, we say wordlessly: for me. When we turn our bodies away, we say soundlessly: for you. Wait a second, stagger walk, dash diagonal or stop, keep going, keep going. We offer this distance as a promise of hope: soon enough. Soon enough, we say, in our tense and frightened walking, just think, soon enough, soon enough, soon enough. Soon enough: we will be free again to pet each other’s dogs.

–April 1, 2020


tor lowell

Tor Lowell is a quiet queer writer, photographer, and zine-maker. Their writing has appeared in Rhythm & Bones Lit, Peculiar: A Queer Literary Journal, and Jonathan: A Queer Fiction Journal, among others. Their photography has appeared in Homology Lit and Minute Magazine. They live in the Pacific Northwest.

Irina Ruvinsky is a professor of philosophy and literature at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago who is interested in establishing a relationship between conceptual and imaginative works, based on the tradition of the German Romantics. She has been obsessively photographing her dog Maddie (lower right in photo) since February 2020. You can see her street photography on Instagram under Kissanmintu and read her short story “Handwriting” at Eclectica.org