I now know how my cousin died. Eric. 38. Husband. Father. NYPD Blue.
He died in agony.
I am told that he caught Covid-19 from his work partner. Ten days later he was dead.
I am told that his wife and two beautiful little girls were forced to flee their home and quarantine in a hotel. I am told his big brother, Eddie, took care of him. I am told paramedics did not, that twice emergency services refused to transport him to the hospital.
A part of me is grateful Eric didn’t die alone in a hospital. His brother was nearby. One morning Eric didn’t wake up. Gone.
Some of the details pertaining to what happened are gossamer-coated. Did he realize how ill he was? I am told he had joked about having the virus.
We are muddling through it all. What I do know is that Eric is dead. Eric did not emerge victorious. He did not receive the best possible care. He did not get lucky, as seems to be the case with some survivors. Corona, named for its crown structure, has pierced him with its spikes for all of eternity.
Eric fit the profile of those likely to perish during this pandemic. He was black. He may have had an underlying condition. The virus itself doesn’t discriminate—white and black and brown people all contract the virus—but people do. So white and black and brown people have a higher incidence of death.
Days after Eric's passing, some seventy-five family members and friends gather over Zoom for his memorial. I watch as the rectangle showing his widow and daughters migrates back and forth between pages in the gallery view in a kind of musical chairs.
When the official ceremony is over, we eagerly shout out greetings to one another. A crouched specter wearing a hoodie in the corner of my screen says, “Get a look at me while you can. I may not be here much longer. I just tested positive for Covid.” It is Eddie. The cacophony drowns out his words, more plea than announcement. Few notice and so he repeats himself, uttering into the void.
This is a strange way to say goodbye to someone. We know are not alone. And the music never stops.
I like to make stuff...and think about stuff.