By Paul Martorelli, English and Multimedia Journalism Major, D.U. Quark Intern
In the fall of 2019 I met a student at Duquesne. For the sake of anonymity, let’s call him Pete.
I met Pete, well, I don’t really remember how exactly I met Pete. Maybe it was in a class, or he was a friend of a friend, or maybe we just hit it off chatting outside of College Hall. Regardless, Pete and I become pretty good friends. We were both seniors, but he was nearly six years older than me.
He knew everything. Or at least it seemed like that to me. He read every book assigned to him in his classes cover to cover and even consumed further material. He had an answer or argument for everything, from political theory to fighting games, boxing to hip hop.
Pete and I would spend all of our free time sitting at the table in front of College Hall; from the moments before our first classes to our lasts. We would sit there and argue about any topic that two people could argue on. We didn’t argue out of anger, we argued out of pure love for the art of argument.
The spring semester of 2020 finally arrived, and though it was too cold for anyone with a shred of sense to sit outside, Pete and I were out there. At this time, I know for sure that we shared a class together, it was short story fiction workshop 3.
The first two months of the semester rolled by as they tend to; slow in the moment yet dangerously blurred in hindsight. All the while, I kept seeing videos. Hospitals being built overnight in China only to be overrun with infected patients upon opening. Nurses and doctors crying as they were being overwhelmed by the influx of unbreathing patients in Italy. I was scared, I knew that this was it, this was the big one.
I brought up the coronavirus with Pete. I knew if anyone could change my mind on the intense anxiety I was feeling about the looming crisis, it would be him. He laughed, he shook his head, he told me that I was worrying about nothing. He said that, even though he rarely agreed with the current (at the time) POTUS, that he was right on this. Covid-19 was just a beefy flu, we don’t freak out about the flu, so why freak out about this? I called him dumb. I called him insane. I sighted the number of infections and deaths, I showed him the videos of bodies being carried out of hospitals by the truckloads in other countries. It still didn’t change his mind. That night, I went to my usual grocery store and stocked up on every can of fruits, vegetables and tuna that I could. I bought as much soup and pasta as I could fit in my cart. I did not buy any additional toilet paper, which in hindsight was a major folly. By that point the citizens of Australia were already going through a toilet paper shortage, I should have seen the toilet paper craze reaching our shores as well.
A few days later, Pete and I had class together. There was a buzz on campus that day. It seemed as though the amount of covid cases was really starting to pick up. New York City was on the verge of catastrophe. Surely, a lockdown was coming. I asked Pete once more for his thoughts on all of this, and again he shook his head and said that this was all nothing. In his mind, if classes were interrupted for a lockdown then it would be a waste of his money spent on tuition.
We walked into class, sat down, and got to critiquing. I can’t remember the story we were supposed to have read for that class to save my life. What I do remember was the sound of an email being received by my MacBook. The pounding of my heart as I read the words.
Our professor stopped class the moment we told her. We all asked her questions that she would have had zero answers to. We knew she didn’t know, she was an adjunct professor, not the president, but in that moment we just wanted answers. We needed answers. Pete just shook his head and proclaimed that this was nonsense, a waste of his money, and an unnecessary break after having just gotten back from spring break. We would all return for in person classes within a couple weeks and realize how foolish this all was.
I haven’t spoken to or seen Pete since that day. Our lack of communication is not out of malice or ill will. The craze and confusion of the early days of the pandemic didn’t leave me much mental power to think to send him a text or a call, and now with so much time having passed, it feels awkward to message him out of the blue.
This post has nothing to do with my internship by the way. If you are waiting for some tie in to the D.U. Quark, there isn’t one. I saw everyone else reminiscing about our morbid one-year pandemic anniversary and thought I would use this time to gloat.
I was right Pete.
I told you so.