The Second Virus

Hannah H

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We exist in the midst of two pandemics, 


but we forget about the second virus. 


 


The one less discussed, 


but equally staggering. 


 


There is no transmission rate, 


we are all already infected. 


 


It lingers on surfaces:


the steering wheel, 


the volume dial,


the cup holder, 


the phone.


 


It surrounds us.


It exists in my car.


Each time I leave home, 


my mother repeats the same pair of words: 


“Drive Safely”


 


My hometown is small: 


mostly woods, 


few people,


slow speed limit. 


 


I understand the temptation 


when I get a text,


when I don’t like the music, 


when I am alone on the road. 


I must remind myself: 


I am not immune. 


 


When the rolls are reversed,


and I am merely a passenger alongside another, 


I can see the glances at their phone,


the fingertips that fiddle with the radio too long,


the snacks, 


the fixing of their hair. 


Hypotheticals swerve in my mind. 


We must hold each other accountable. 


My friends are not immune. 


 


The virus infects all roads. 


I see it at red lights and stop signs, 


paralleled through windows in neighboring cars.


No one is immune.


 


Each of us is susceptible. 


Those who just got their license. 


Those who have had it for decades.


Time doesn’t make you immune. 


 


It is our responsibility to treat distracted driving for what it is:


a virus.


There is no vaccine. 


This disease has existed for as long as we have driven, 


and it will endure. 


 


But as we have learned,


viruses only spread if we are not careful.


We must be empathetic:


to ourselves, 


to our neighbors on the road,


to those on the other end of a text message that want to see us arrive safely.


We must implement the same strategies. 


We must do everything in our power to keep ourselves safe.


 


Though no one is immune, 


all of us have the power and responsibility to stop the spread.