Derek and the Virus


Derek lost his room around the time the virus started seeping into Chicago. Now Derek stays on the street full time. Two squares of concrete in front of the crystal shop on Michigan Avenue. A street that used to be called “the magnificent mile.” Derek doesn’t call it anything since the stroke robbed him of speech. Now he just exclaims with bursts of sound. A thumbs up roar of delight when you greet him. When he knows he’s been seen.  The woman who owns the crystal shop walks to his concrete square and has a 20 questions dialogue asking what happened to his room? Does he have a place to sleep? He answers with one sound for “yes” and a shorter, clipped sound for “no.” She asks if a shelter would work. Panic spreads across his face. The fear of what happens in those shelters barking out in a very clear “No!” And as the late afternoon crowds thin, the trains half full filled with people holding in coughs and stifling sneezes, the lady in the Crystal store makes phone calls trying to find a roof for Derek. While I am walking past the building where someone tested positive. It’s next to the building where I work. I’m thinking about people who –from the very real, stomach gnawing need for money—keep working. People who have to make the horrific choice of working or staying safe. My Dad comes to mind. I catch a glimpse of a profile cast by someone on the street. A walk. A laugh. A look in the eyes. Just like him. Gone these past few years, he comes back to look after all of us. When things get really hard, he comes back. Now it’s night. Derek is out there. The rain comes. My Dad is here.

He comes back for all of us.

3 Responses to “Derek and the Virus”

  1. DUNCAN MCEWAN Says:

    Sweating it out over 75 in Washington County Oregon.

  2. Carol Steinbrecher Says:

    Sad. Sweet. Eloquent. Thank you.

    • Paul Haider Says:

      Roger, this is empathic and eloquent writing as always. Medicare For All would benefit the most vulnerable Americans in the same manner that NHS had already extended my life here in England.🇬🇧👍

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