The Painting in my Dining Room, A Letter to my Dog

It’s been a year now, shouldn’t you know what’s outside that window? 

What if it’s changed? Reese, the park isn’t going to move. 

What do you mean “what park”? You know, the same park that we’ve taken you to for the past year. The one we carried you through right after we got you, before you were vaccinated. The one that we walk you through three times a day? Does that ring a bell? No? It’s the same park that I climbed trees in since kindergarten. The same park that we ran through when I was crying about missing my friends?

Oh come on, that’s what you remember? I swear there’s not a single complete thought behind your big eyes. 

You know, I still remember the day that we got you. We picked you because you were a ball of energy. In the past year, that energy still hasn’t died down. You entered my life on the last day of in-person school, which was also 8 days after my birthday. Now my birthday passed again.

It’s been a wild year, hasn’t it Reese? I hope I’ve been able to take you outside enough. You’re still scared of other dogs, so maybe not. I wish there was a way for you to socialize with them but even with masks on and outside, we do have to stay six feet away.

Anyway, that’s what’s outside the window. Really though, what’s inside the window is just as important. We have spent basically all day, every day inside. I’ve lived every single day basically just at the dinner table with my computer. All my life besides you is on the computer. 

School, clubs, teams, extracurricular activities, my friends. Everything is online now. I wouldn’t mind so much I suppose but it does make it feel like these things aren’t real. 

There’s no more rushing through halls to get to my next class. Just a couple of clicks to switch between Zoom meetings. Clubs aren’t meaningful when the number of members dwindles every week because the community falls apart without seeing each other. It’s easy to hide behind a grey rectangle that only displays your name. Teams feel like an extension of schoolwork when you can’t eat meals together or spend time just in each other’s companies. Even some of the closest communities now live in a state of awkward, silent Zoom meetings. My friends, although extremely important to me, sometimes seem intangible as well. Perhaps I talk to more people now than ever before but everyone is just a username sending lines of text. It can feel as though I’m reading a book of conversations and everyone, including myself, is just another character.

Somehow though, the things outside my window don’t feel real anymore either. I’m barely outside. I walk through the park across the street maybe once every three days. It’s quite beautiful I must say. It has lampposts and paths winding through grass that paintings capture. But that’s all it is now to me, a painting in my dining room. 

Given the state of the world, to say things don’t feel real isn’t that much a stretch. People around the world, around our country, struggle every day. I’m lucky that I have the means to at least make things happen. I have the painting that I can enter when I want and I have my computer to help me hold onto what reality was before.

Outside my window, outside my bubble, there are universes of struggles I can hope to never face. Just in the park, Reese, the same park we go to, there was an Asian woman who was assaulted. On the sidewalks that we walk, someone was hurt for being Asian. Someone that could have been me or my mother. 

Like you, I never really thought or worried about things like this. Unlike you though, I knew these things exist and that they are devastating. It just never quite hit me how real they are until a police car parked at my house and a policeman knocked at my door. Oh you remember that man? You remember the oddest things, don’t you?

It took a while to digest the fact that someone like me was hurt on my street. I don’t know the details of what was said or done but just the idea that someone in my neighborhood would hurt someone for something they can’t change terrifies me. While racism has always been an issue, as naïve as it is, I never thought it would concern me and therefore didn’t internalize the magnitude of it. It’s quite dystopian but these struggles feel more tangible and real than most other aspects of my life.

Now COVID-19 has made everything so much more complicated. Because of it not only are racism and xenophobia affecting my community but almost 50,000 people have died. The Coronavirus has wreaked havoc. It’s been around a year since it was declared a pandemic and the world around us drastically changed. Working and learning from home has become the new normal for a majority of people.

From the initial few months where hospitals were overcrowded and there were ventilator shortages, there has been major progress but the struggles aren’t over. Vaccines are still being rolled out and the number of cases still rises daily. 

Reese, all of this is still feels new. It’s been a terribly long year but it also somehow felt like it went by in the blink of an eye. The day that schools said we’ll return in two weeks feels like it was yesterday but the summer feels a like a lifetime ago.

There’s a lot outside my window, a lot I have yet to see, but for now my world is right by me and its living embodiment is you.

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