Finally, the coffee shop closes. The owners insist it is temporary. They promise the staff they will be back; they simply cannot continue to make payroll, for now. Take out and delivery just does not cut it as a business model.
Kassandra knows she will be okay. Her parents will send her rent money, and she can scrape by on selling a few art pieces and food from the local food bank. The vaccines are coming; they are already making their way to the nurses, the elders, the most vulnerable. She can wait for hers.
She shows up every morning, with the crew, masked and ready to deliver boxes of food to folks who are too sick, vulnerable, or scared to leave their homes.
Some days, she walks through a gauntlet of people insisting the recent election did not turn out the way it did. They also insist businesses should be allowed to open, and everyone should be allowed to choose their own response (or not) to the pandemic. This, they say, is freedom.
Kassandra cannot completely disagree with their philosophy, although she is committed to real-world facts. She teams up with Franny one early morning, masked and bundled against the cold, cleats on their boots to slog through the icy slush on the streets. They pull an old wagon with the food, and it regularly tries to tip over.
“I mean, why can’t we be trusted to do the right thing?” Kassandra asks. Her breath inside her mask is full of coffee and toothpaste. Ugh, she thinks. Is this how I smelled to others, back in the days before masks? “It’s like, people are resisting just because they don’t like being told what to do. So why not make it guidelines, and persuade them through inspiration? Regulation, it’s just kind of the first thing bureaucrats want and the last thing real people want.”
Franny sighs. “I know, Kass. You’re right. But here’s the thing: trusting people means giving them all the information. Trusting people depends on them trusting their leaders. Maybe, there was a chance early on to build that mutual trust. But we blew it, and now, here we are.”
Here we are. Kassandra bristles at the fatalism of that statement. “It’s always possible to change where we are, Franny. I mean, look at you and Leo. Being in love, living together, all that. You never would have predicted that, would you? And look at me. Unemployed, dependent on food donations, and my parents, again. I never would have predicted that, either.”
“Hey, Kass. It’s okay, we’ll be okay.” Concern lights Franny’s eyes, gives Kassandra a moment of seeing herself as others must.
“I know,” she manages. Crying in the cold makes a mask soggy, dank, sticky. Kassandra tries valiantly to blink away the tears pooling in her eyes.