Erasure in Real-Time

Jordan Wilson-Dalzell

This is a lonely virus, leaving the ill breathing their own blood: an auto-immune drowning.
Even grieving --often a community practice is stripped down to the bones. Almost no one will
see the body again. Few will be able to hold the closest kin without fearing their own respiratory
death.

No one wants to talk about: how easy it is to edit respiration. The same hands pumping air can
withhold it. Hospitals operate as a system and only some patients get bedside manner, comfort in
a strange place, a charger to call the partner and caregivers that believe they are worth saving. To
be able bodied and sick is to be a loss if gone. A promise of all the headlines lamenting your last
breaths. Nurses remember your name, watch your monitors closer determine you more likely to
survive than those of us with heavy lungs. They are already damaged by chronic illness. We
teach the staff our charts, help them avoid asphyxiating us with medicines we have death
allergies to. Our pleas are met with abrupt interactions and minimal information.

We have no voice to cough our way through language demanding better. With no one else
permitted by our side, there is no advocate in the room to know our rights.

We’ve spent birthdays with the night shift and are used to falling asleep to the sound of sickness
The hum of life saving machines. Sometimes, hospitals hold us the way our immune systems do.
Either barely at all, from a distance or too tight, choking us. Like the blood cells hurting what
they are supposed to defend.

In a pandemic, we are our autoimmune disorders, and most can live with sacrificing us.

People I trusted are still dismissing the importance of protecting the vulnerable if the healthy
have to give up fro-yo or bonfires.

If healthcare supplies grow barren, can birth no more ventilators, we are first on the exclusion
list. They will determine quality of life based on how many beaches we’ve walked; how
irregular we visit the doctor and breaths per minute.

If the choice is between the able bodied and us, they’ll measure our ability to run and choose
your faster mile time. Exhausted doctors will listen to a past recording of your lungs and praise
their steady intake. They frown at the cough I wore before Covid, mark yours priority
and unhook the ventilator we came with.