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The narrator struggles to manage her jealousy and frustration as her friends begin traveling again during the pandemic

I sat on a rough-hewn leather couch in the living room. Beads of sweat grew on my neck and forehead. It was so hot! Our valiant, warrior fan fought bravely against the heat threatening to overtake it. The air conditioning savior wouldn’t come, and Mom and Dad refused to turn it on. I wished I could be in Cancun, Mexico, the breeze blowing my hair around my face, the lime-green palm tree leaves rustling, making a whooshing sound that would be much better than the whining of the tired fan. I imagined curling my toes and feeling soft, pale sand sift through them instead of the dry, paint-splattered carpet of our house. I closed my eyes and thought I saw the aqua-blue water of the ocean lapping at the shore. The mist of the tide sprayed over me, but I welcomed it.

Suddenly, a ping sounded from close by. My brain turned it into the clinking of two glasses of ice-cold lemonade. Another ping. My brain turned it into another round of cheers. Then I realized that the clinks weren’t clinks at all. They were notification sounds from my phone.

My eyes opened. I took in everything: the whining fan; the dry, crusty rug; the groaning couch; and the wet, hot sweat I was drenched in. I looked at my harbinger phone. Two texts were emblazoned on the screen. They looked like glowing omens. Each had information scrawled on the top: “Messenger Kids, Annie, 11:03.” The first read: “Hi!” The second one said: “We’re going to Boston! So excited!”

I groaned. I turned off my phone. The bright screen was replaced with darkness.

Frozen in Time

All of my friends were going on vacation. They told me about it afterward and brought me souvenirs. I already had three boxes of jelly beans in varying tastes of horrible from Universal Studios; a long Canada T-shirt that, when worn, was like stepping into the Mojave Desert; a glass dog statue from Disney World, although I didn’t like dogs, always begging for attention. I was bound to get more. Sometimes I wished that my friends could just leave me alone, but now it was different. It was Annie, one of my friends who never traveled. I was always the one who told her about my trips. She was always so envious, but despite that, she never went on vacation—at least until now. I felt like  the glass dog: one wrong step and I would crack with jealousy. Wherever I turned, it was my phone vibrating as my friends texted me about their vacations, or my parents talking about people posting vacation photos on Twitter and Facebook.

I was bound at home by the ropes of reasons. Hotels were more demanding, some being eight times their original price. The blue and patterned masks that protected us were barely used anymore. People acted as if Covid had never happened, ignoring all disease-prevention guidelines and making traveling dangerous. Despite the reasons, I still fought to find a way for us to go on vacation, to go to the places my friends were talking so animatedly and excitedly about: Florida; Colorado; Washington, D.C.; Las Vegas; and many others. I had long since known I wouldn’t be going, at least not while Covid was a threat. But still I wished I was like them, my friends and the people on the internet, sailing through the smooth water of San Francisco Bay or peering out over Las Vegas, marveling at the bright lights, or looking in awe at the Grand Canyon. But I was stuck at home with a whining fan, a dry rug under my feet, a couch groaning under my weight, and the sweltering heat.

I looked around. I had been so lost imagining all of the places I could have gone that I didn’t realize the sky had visibly darkened. A hint of cold air tinged the atmosphere. The pitter-patter of rain echoed against the pavement of our house. I looked out the window. I watched as the world became wet, bleary, and stained with dew.

I ran outside. The air was much cooler, and the pale yellow sun peeked out from a curtain of gray clouds. The rain fell on me, drenching my clothes even more effectively than my sweat. The world seemed to be taking a deep breath, pausing, cleaning itself of COVID-19, washing away everything bad that had ever happened. I felt the rain washing me free of my anger, disappointment, jealousy, or grumpiness. I was joyous, feeling the mist of rain and the breath of air. I was free.