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As far as I knew, the death count had surpassed 150 on Tuesday.
Not to be outdone, Mexico’s Jornada, reports hours later: “In the midst of the chaos created by the lack of clarity, an official tried to explain — unsuccessfully — what he called the ‘adjustment and updating’ of figures on the virus affecting the country. Contrary to what had been released since last Friday, of the twenty confirmed cases of influenza of swine origin, there were actually only seven, and as for the rest, they were never explained.“
“Relax and enjoy this rare tranquility that we are experiencing here in our city.“
The last of Doctor Benjamin’s eight tips.
“A portrait is emerging of a slow and confused response by Mexico to the gathering swine flu epidemic,” the AP rules. “And that could mean the world is flying blind into a global health storm.“
“You realize a plane is the worst place you can be right now?” Abi asks.
I’ve just told Abi that I’m boarding a plane tomorrow. She’s not taking it well. She’ll be on a plane to Wyoming the next day, but doesn’t know that yet. For now, she fights my choice like the betrayal that it is: leaving our family for my real one.
“No,” I tell the truth: I had not considered the danger of air circulating among hundreds of passengers leaving Mexico City. I’ve given up considering dangers. I’ve also given up believing that a person who doesn’t worry is an optimist, a person living well, or freely. I’ve learned, while watching strangers wage war against invisible enemies, that I’m simply inept when it comes to details. I pay attention to all the wrong things. I write down the radio’s every warning and then forget not to touch my own mouth. I’m illogical and emotional. My powers of observation are for telling stories, not defending life. As for my emotions, they’re only helpful when they reach a fever pitch, when they turn to instinct, overriding my principles, and ordering me to flee.
By the fifth day of swine flu, I’ve seen every kind of mask on every kind of Mexican. At least I think I have. Then, entering my building on Atlixco Street, I look across the lobby into the giant peephole of my landlady’s door, and catch sight of her disabled daughter — the grown woman I never see anywhere but through this hole. Usually, she waves at me; I’ll see an eye, just enough of a smile, her hand waving in a flurry. This time, though, I see only the bubble-gum pink that covers half her face. And that’s it. That’s when I know Mexico City is a place I can no longer be. That’s how easily I give up on the breadth of the sky and board a plane bound for Atlanta in a cheap, blue, standard-issue mask.