by Lauren J. Sharkey
Facebook, Instagram, Twitter @theljsharks
I told myself I was going to be fine – I wasn’t going to let it happen to me. Each morning before sitting in my ergonomic chair, I procure a disinfectant wipe from the plastic container on my desk and begin my ritual with accuracy – wiping the mouse, the keyboard, headset and ear-pad, microphone, regular phone, receiver…chord connecting phone and receiver.
As coworkers sneezed and sniffled around me, I jokingly make Xs with my fingers, laughing as I barred them from coming closer. They returned my laughter, not knowing it’s a natural instinct not to approach an X. But one morning, despite my best efforts, I awoke to phlegm.
Walking into the Get-N-Go, I knew it must have been Candace. As much as I love her, the woman always has to lean over and press her cheek to mine when explaining something. Then again, Candace got it from Mark who picked it up from taking a sip of Laura’s Dr. Pepper. It was only a matter of time before the anonymous “bug” came to claim its unpaid time off.
Instead of going for my usual medium non-fat caramel latte, with whip of course, I opted for a large chamomile tea, some Halls, and a Krispy Kreme. As I carefully placed the perfectly glazed doughnut in the plastic bag, I felt it. The sneeze began in my chest, worked through my throat, into my sinus, and then painfully out of my nose.
People turned, fearing my soul had escaped my body, and hoping to extend blessings to prevent the Devil and his minions from taking hold. Their once smiling faces met mine and turned cold, afraid…hateful. A man in a suit placed his coffee on a shelf housing various Lay’s potato chips and walked out. He was followed by three others, all leaving their egg sandwiches and sugary carbs behind them. I watched them run to the parking lot, never glancing back and realized they were afraid…of me.
Fear makes people do terrible things. Hate makes people do even worse things.
My Instagram and Facebook feeds are filled with images of people whose faces look just like mine. Faces that have been cut, beaten, bruised…faces that are now unrecognizable to friends and loved ones. Faces that people deemed dangerous, threatening…diseased. And I have to wonder, Am I next?
I went out and purchased a pair of aviator sunglasses. I wear them to my car, I wear them when I walk to the butcher two blocks from my apartment, I wear them to the mailbox down the hall. My eyes are a liability.
I also purchased an extra-large beanie to house my long, thick, black hair. I throw my head forward, scooping and stuffing my locks into the cotton weave. My hair is a liability.
For the first time in my life, I purchased foundation from Target. It is two shades lighter than my natural skin tone. My skin is a liability.
I am a liability.
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