Love in the Time of Coronavirus

In René Magritte's "The Lovers," a man
wearing a slightly disheveled suit
and tie and a woman in a rust-colored dress
kiss each other through a full
veil of natural linen or cotton, which many
clothing ads might describe as breathable
meaning, woven from fibers which allow
air to circulate freely, so as to make
feverish climates, say, in the tropics
or in summer, more bearable. What
the lovers wear is far more stylish
than those N95 masks now in short
supply since the first COVID-19 outbreak
in Wuhan. As of today there are
89,198 cases worldwide and still spreading.
A Tik Tok video showing people doing the
#footshake instead of hugging or shaking
hands is popular again. The French
government has urged its citizens to stop
giving each other la bise, those airy
little poufs of kisses— one, two, on each
cheek; three, if you're Swiss. But
I've seen no statement on actual French
kisses, the kind Magritte's lovers
are exchanging. You can feel their ardor
especially since the wall on one side
has turned the shade of doom; and the other,
the old-blood color of unhappy endings.

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