A hush fills the city, a sense of bracing for a blow. We know things will get worse. We watch the governor’s briefing each morning and listen to him beg for ventilators. The New York Times provides infection maps that turn blood red if you scroll too far into the future. Some politicians suggest letting the elderly and vulnerable die so we can keep the economy humming. America deserves a plague, but not its people.

I need to buy bread. There’s a line at the corner bodega. We stand six feet apart as instructed. The woman in front of me wears pajamas and cradles cans of tomato soup like a child. I do my best to maintain the six-foot distance, repeating this phrase in my head until I realize I’m thinking six feet under. Maybe there’s a connection between distance and depth. Fear of disease from the dead as well as the living. Graves dug deep enough that people couldn’t climb out.

“When I get the blues, I need to go outside,” I hear an old man say. “Otherwise the bad juju starts bouncing off the walls.”

Fumbling with my telephone to check the news, I accidentally press play on an old audiobook. A leathery British voice says, “He had a controversy with an Irish bishop who believed there are other worlds than ours, but was nevertheless canonized.” I spend the rest of the day returning to this sentence as needed, clinging to its mystery and meaninglessness like a koan.