Rosa celebrated the Spiral of Life with her new friends, after deciding at the last minute to join them. She allows herself to bask in the sun and camaraderie, laughing at their jokes, making a few of her own.
She feels, for those few hours, remarkably light. Perhaps for the first time since the pandemic was declared, Rosa realizes she has momentarily forgot there is a pandemic at all.
What a gift, five minutes without the weight of everything on our shoulders, she muses, sipping a seltzer water and watching River explain each part of the art piece to Leo.
“How are you, Rosa?” Franny’s voice at her elbow startles her, just a bit.
“I’m fine, doing well. And you?” Rosa recognizes the knot of anxiety just at the bottom of her rib cage as it grows, tightens.
“Fine, of course. Happy to be here, celebrating with everyone. Sometimes I feel like this whole pandemic nightmare might really be receding, at least for those of us lucky enough to be here, where vaccinations are. And then other times, well…” Franny’s voice trails off.
“Me too,” Rosa says, picking up the unspoken part of Franny’s sentence. “We’ve had a lot of cases at the hospital lately. Sicker people, younger people. It reminds me of the winter.” She shudders, even in the warmth of the early summer evening.
“I heard about that. I hope everyone recovers, and we don’t wind up shutting down again.” Franny takes a deep breath. “And I also, I don’t know, there’s something about the lack of expectations for the last year that I cherish. I don’t want to give it up. Does that make me a horrible person?”
“Not at all. I know just what you mean. I love my time to myself. It’s been nice, not having to justify it. That doesn’t mean we want everyone to keep getting sick. We just want permission to be ourselves, I guess.”
“That’s it, exactly, Rosa. Permission to be ourselves. Like River over there – that’s what Kassandra and her art did for them, in a way.”
Heat rises in Rosa’s cheeks. Permission to be herself is precisely what she craves most of all, and precisely what she is convinced she can never have.