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Lauren Manca, 11

My family’s house in Connecticut was massive. It had a huge green backyard, with the woods behind it. You could often find my family in the sunroom, where so much light comes in. It was a great place to relax, but also it was good if you kind of just wanted a little alone time. The almost constant sunshine made it a serene area, a room where only good energy may enter.

But, with a horse ranch as our neighbors, and the nearest stores 20 miles away with not a child in sight, I was lonely. I would wake up and go about my daily routine, doing school work, eating food, playing, and going to sleep, but I did it with little laughter and emotion. I didn’t have a way to communicate with those who made me laugh the most. I watched the news, the horrifying knowledge of the COVID-19 creeping into my mind. I was terrified of the growing sickness, but mostly the fact that we didn’t know when it would be over. This was the time I needed my friends most.

I loved being with my family, but sometimes I just wished I had a friend with me. There were days when I would just kind of wander aimlessly around the house, wishing for my friend to appear in front of my very eyes. Of course, that never happened. I continued to see the news about the coronavirus, the frightening disease already spreading across the world. I was scared about what might happen to us, and with no one my age to talk with, I was sad and unhappy.

Sometimes I would bike down the road with my older sister, Chloe, and my dog, Willy, saying hello to the horses next door. I would often stop in the small clearing and watch them for about five minutes before leaving to go back home. They looked so peaceful, so happy. I wished I was able to ride them, but of course, they weren’t mine. I had ridden a horse a few times before, and I liked it. But now, the ranch was closed due to COVID-19. During that time I only felt trapped, trying to find my way out of an isolated place, with no way to reach out to anyone.

My family had come up to Connecticut from Manhattan, New York, in order to escape the chaos of the growing covid. I was used to the loud sirens of ambulances driving up the street to go to Mount Sinai, the chatter of kids walking home from school, and the occasional taxi honk. I missed that. Up in Connecticut, the only sounds to be heard were birds chirping and trees swaying. There were a few passing cars once in a while, coming from a little down the road where the other residents live. I hadn’t seen almost any people, they decided to lock themselves in their houses out of fear of the COVID-19. I was so desperate, I would’ve settled for seeing a stranger, a kid who I had never seen before. I was disappointed, because that never happened. Wilbur road was filled with life, but unfortunately, not much of it was human.

“I’m gonna go text Alex!” I called to my mom. She was sitting at her desk, working away.

She nodded and responded with, “Go ahead.”

I ran out of the room and picked up my computer, opening Hangouts. I typed in our chat, Hi, Alex. How are you doing? And waited for him to respond. The house smelled of fresh air and sometimes delicious food, and I was serene. I tapped on the computer keys, waiting for a response from Alex. His little profile picture showed that he wasn’t even on the site. I frowned. This had been happening for the past few days, and I was a little annoyed now. I would text Alex, wait for a response, then just sit there for a little. He might respond the next day, but only a simple, Hi. Bye. I crossed my legs, waiting and waiting. My other friends kept in close contact, but since they had some little things to do, they were sometimes busy. Alex on the other hand, I hadn’t heard from in a while. He was my best friend since Pre-K, and I was a little disappointed that he wouldn’t talk to me.

The sound of a soft breeze echoed through the house, momentarily calming me. I ran through a few scenarios in my mind.

Maybe he has a family matter, or...a class! But I knew the latter wasn’t the case. All businesses had been shut down because of COVID-19, so he wouldn’t be outside. I thought some more. It’s possible that he just forgot about our chat and didn’t see my messages. That wasn’t it either. Every time I would text him, I would check the next day and it would say that he read it. But, he didn’t respond. I frowned. Maybe it’s just a temporary thing, I thought. I mean, it had only been going on a few days, so he’d probably text me soon. I still sat. I clasped my hands in my lap, biting my lip.

I checked my messages again. Nothing. Not even one little, “hello." I was nervous to leave the screen because I thought that once I was gone he’d text, and if I didn’t respond Alex would leave the Hangout again, so I waited some more. The computer was warm against my fingers from constant use, but the house was a little on the chilly side. I kicked my legs back and forth, making a very annoying sound. I expected someone to say something, but they weren’t watching, so I went back to observing Hangouts. I clicked on my other chats, but no recent messages.

I cracked my knuckles. Someone had to text me sooner or later. A letter might be nice. It wasn’t only Alex, though. I had lost touch with so many of my friends from fifth grade, I was miserable. I really wanted to go back to school, but the COVID-19 made that impossible. I re-checked my Hangout with Alex, but as expected, no answer. I closed the website.

I’ll check it tomorrow, I promised myself. He’ll respond. I think.

The next day I was even more worried. Alex still hadn’t messaged me back. I paced back and forth, rubbing my forehead. I thought of the last time I had seen my friends. My parents had decided it would be best to pull me out of school and keep me home for a day because of the growing Covid. No one knew how dangerous it would get until we went into quarantine. We could assume that it would be bad, but we hadn’t encountered something like this in a while, so people weren’t sure. On March 13th, 2020, New York City went into lockdown. All businesses and playgrounds were closed, and everyone had to stay at home. No one was to leave their houses. I had been home on March 12th, so the next day I got the news. I was horrified. I wanted to go out. I had friends at school, I had a gymnastics team, I needed to be out there! But, the restrictions won me over.

I sulked for a while, not knowing what would happen next. I kept a diary from the beginning of the pandemic, and it was kind of pathetic. I just kept writing, “We’ll be here for one month.”, “Only one more month.” and on and on. By this time, it had been about six or seven months in quarantine. The news stated that COVID-19 wasn’t going to end until late 2021. I didn’t want to wait a year. I wanted to go outside without a mask. Without social distancing. But that just wasn’t going to happen. Every time I was out in public, I had to keep myself from sneezing because it would’ve been weird. We’re in the middle of a pandemic and I sneeze in public. Everyone would be yelling, “Aaah! She’s sick!”So I tried not to sneeze. I wrote letters to some of my friends, but mail was delayed so I didn’t get their responses until about a month later. Alex still hadn’t really been talking with me. I knew that he would message back. He had to. At least, I thought he would. I drove myself to the border of the country named “Crazy!”

I kept thinking someone would just whip out a vaccine and, yay, everything would be cured! We’d be free again! Nope. Scientists and doctors were coming up with a vaccine, but they said everyone would be vaccinated by the end of 2021. I knew that I shouldn’t be so...hopeful? No, that wasn’t the right word. I had to stop being so reliant. I expected others to fix the problems I was having. I mean, sure, the pandemic affects the world, but I affect what happens to me. I could choose to be calm and controlled, or I could throw a fit. I chose calm. But, I didn’t give up on Alex. I wanted him to respond so bad, so I kept waiting.

I waited for about two days before I exploded. I had promised I would be calm, but...I’m not famous for keeping my word. I wanted to scream, Why aren’t you responding! I felt the need to express my anger, but I wasn’t the best at expressing it

thoughtfully. I got a little upset every time a family member would speak to me, and if my dog barked, I would glare. I was in the Crazy country. I had experience with tantrums, but those were for smaller reasons. I thought that a friend not talking to me was a crisis. I didn’t know how to handle being so alone. I didn’t have my friends with me, and my sister was usually busy, so she couldn’t play with me. I was furious.

“I don’t get it!” I cried out at the dinner table.

I was sitting down at the brown hardwood table with my family. The smell of warm food wafted up from the table and hovered in the dining room. The bright white light shone over us, illuminating the glass cups. The sky was dark already, but stars were never visible until about 11 pm.

“Did you try texting him?” My sister and dad asked me.

I nodded. “He didn’t respond.”

My mom thought for a moment, and the room was silent. “Maybe he just needs time.”

I blinked. I hadn’t thought of that. I stopped kicking my legs.

“It’s possible that he’s still adjusting.”

I just blinked again. How didn’t I think of this? I wondered.

I nodded. “Maybe.”

After that, my anger started going away. I didn’t glare at Willy every time he barked, and when my sister talked to me, I’d start a conversation with her. I’d realized that maybe Alex needed a little more time to get used to being locked up. I mean, we were in the middle of a pandemic. Every now and then I’d still get angry, but my fury was deflating like a punctured balloon. I actually started to focus on other things, not just Alex. I was happy. Calm and happy. I hadn’t realized that sometimes people need a little more time to themselves than realized. I was okay with that. I also needed time to get used to this lonely life.

I told myself I’d never get angry over something like that again. But remember, I’m not famous for keeping my word.

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