She knows Nellie is lying about her grandfather’s greeting. These kids don’t know who they will interview until they arrive. But she appreciates the kindness of this gentle fiction.
“Say hello back from me, when you talk with your grandfather.”
“I will, thanks. Is it okay if I record this?” They have to ask. None of the kids realize that it’s all being recorded, anyway.
“Of course. What’s the topic today, Nellie?”
The girl takes a deep breath. She sees the mask flex with the air movement. When did she last see Nellie’s face? When she was a toddler? Probably.
“We’re supposed to ask you about your experience of 2020.”
Her guts clench, even though she was prepared for it. She works hard to keep her voice even, calm. “What about 2020?”
“The change, you know. What started it all.”
So much. So much was started, so much changed, so much was lost, so much was found.
“I see. Is there anything specific you’re interested in, Nellie?”
“Oh, all of it, I guess.”
Her turn to take a deep breath. “Okay. I’ll start talking, you ask questions when you need to. If I go down a rabbit hole, bring me back.”
“Sure, of course. We have an hour, I guess, but I can always come back if there’s more.”
There will be more. How can that year be condensed into a single hour? She longs to tell it as it was, and the aftermath, in real time. Give me a year to describe it all, she thinks, and maybe then you’ll understand.
“Maybe just start with what you remember most from 2020?”
As if on cue, she feels the weight. Like carrying a load of bricks on your back, all the time. Except in your chest. Making it hard to catch a breath. The weight of the sadness, the sorrow, the responsibility. And most of all, the heaviness of waiting: for the next emergency, the next catastrophe, the next news cycle.
“It was such a heavy, heavy year,” she says, as a way to start.