Coping Mechanisms

Phoebe North
3 min readMar 12, 2020

At the edge of the apocalypse, we all make jokes
about it being the apocalypse, we all carry

hand sanitizer in little bottles to trivia night at the bar
and then, after we high five, give our red, ravaged knuckles

a squirt and we can’t help but notice how the drunk girl
who gives us a high five puts her dirty mitts all over

the bottle and drops a bead of it on the floor. At the edge
of the apocalypse we learn about our inability

to spell “sanitizer” and how autocorrect doesn’t like
the real spelling, anyway. At the edge of the apocalypse

we read helpful comics about talking to your child
about the apocalypse, emphasizing

how children rarely experience severe symptoms, emphasizing
how mommy and daddy can call their doctor

if they experience severe symptoms, chasing away
the image of that jagged, mountainous graph we saw online

that compared the number of hospital beds here and in Italy,
and we try not to remember the sound of our parents’ hushed voices

when Dad got sick, their arguments about money and how
we cried ourselves to sleep every night and in the morning, red-eyed,

pulled ourselves together, telling no one. At the edge
of the apocalypse we note the quiet in the streets. Our hands

become chapped and bloody over the knuckles. We debate
the value of washing our hands again. We wash our hands again.

We reschedule things with an asterisk or a bullet and we try
to distract ourselves with political arguments on Facebook, as if

there can be any distraction, as we count the number of friends
we have who are uninsured, who can’t work from home, who work

retail or in the service industry, who touch bodies all day,
who work in healthcare, who need masks and gloves more

Phoebe North

storyteller. sap. strange creature. they/them pronouns.