Wednesday Afternoon at Grand Mart, Before the Coronavirus School Closings

In the snack aisle at Grand
Mart, a grandmother in loose
sweatpants is holding a Kleenex
over her mouth while looking through
the foil packets of Boy Bawang
and adobong mani. It is the afternoon
we hear about all the schools
extending spring break by one
more week, then shifting to online
only teaching. My daughter's friends
text to say they won't be going back
to their dorms or colleges until maybe
April; but who knows? No one here
looks like they're panic buying—
just bunches of spring onions, carrots
the size of your forearm. Bok choy,
mushrooms packed in styrofoam
trays. All of us have our favorite
spices, a penchant for some
kind of food with such a delicious
stink: natto, kimchi, bagoong.
We are trying to live life
like it is normal as always.
We are trying to feel brave,
to calm the alarms in our brains
and under the skin. We admire
how a store clerk in the corner
is slowly and methodically stacking
beautiful red bell peppers, one on top
of the other, in a circle that rises
up and up and out of the bin.

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