Letter to an Unborn Child

Years ago, before you were born, I sat on my bed one Thursday evening and wrote you this letter. I didn’t know who I was, let alone if you would come to exist and who you would be; so I couldn’t write with you in mind, thinking of your smile, your eyes, your laugh. Instead, I tried to make a portal back in time for you, so you could see the past from my perspective. The part of the past I wanted to tell you about was the COVID-19 pandemic that came to the United States in February of 2020.

Major changes to the American way of life come about frequently, as technology progresses and beliefs shift. Usually, though, they happen slowly, and it takes looking back to see how things have changed. Not so with the change brought about by this pandemic. In the course of a few weeks in late winter, touch between those outside of one’s household became taboo by necessity. Very shortly, everyone began covering their mouth and nose in public. Being within six feet of someone outside of the household became an instant trigger of anxiety and discomfort. This monumental change in the way we interact took place over a snapshot in time; it was the remaining months and years that held its aftermath, that showed the slow way it changed our minds.

When we watched movies from before the pandemic and saw people sitting maskless, close around a table, our chests tightened as we drew our breath; the feeling of hospitality, the joy of welcoming someone into your home, was gone, replaced by fear. The instinctual reaction when another human came near was to reach for your mask, you’re covering that said, “I am removed from you. We are safe.”

Some gave up, or refused to believe in the necessity of social distancing, and went maskless to parties, just as they had before the pandemic. We shamed them for endangering us, and the fear sparked rage and division in our hearts. Others believed in what they were told by the media and the scientific establishment, but grew tired, and began carrying out their instructions halfheartedly, letting their guard down out of sheer exhaustion. And the virus continued to spread, faster than ever.

As the days grow shorter and the year towards its end, I sat down to write you this letter. I didn’t know how much longer the pandemic would last, or if people’s hearts would ever become free of the ingrained fear of human contagion again. But I knew you’d have some more perspective than I did, and as they say, hindsight is 2020. That’s why I didn’t try to tell you what happened in all its depth and complexity, but only attempted to give you a window into what I saw that year. I hope it helps you understand.

To the future,




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Satya Johnson

I live at The Benson Place Blueberry Farm. I’m a student at Williams College studying cognitive science or something like that. satchlj.com tilde.zone/@satchlj