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  • Jose Arrieta

We are a Quiet Bunch

Updated: May 19

Chapter 1: We are a Quiet Bunch

I was born on September 11, 2016. 15 years after the defining moment that separates millennials from the generation prior to mine, the digital natives.

For us, our defining moment was the first COVID pandemic.

When I was four I started going to kindergarten. A few months after things really started.

I cannot remember what exactly it was.

I barely can remember what daycares and Kindergarten were.

I just knew something had changed.


It took a while until holidays were moved to winter and I could experience what the old people called "real education" and have "real friends"

These old people always treat us like less.

Like if our experience is not enough for them

I just know this life.


What I do remember was the change.

I could no longer play around at home

Before we could always play and have fun together

But now we were all of us always home.

My older sister needed to prepare for her high school exams.

my dad was always in meetings in the big room

My mom conquered the living room /kitchen area.

Damm you dumb millennial architects and your open floor plans. Your dumb ideas cost me my childhood.

I just can remember the silence. The numbness. And the prejudice from the others.


You never had friends, not real ones, at your age I slept over at my friend's house. These comments were strange while growing up

Please shut up, be quiet we will play later.

Please turn off the music

Now you can come to the kitchen

Shit. You are warm, are you ok? You coughed. It cannot be. The ever-present fear.


My grandma died.

The memorial looked very nice but then the internet blacked out. The person in charge did not notice that we wanted to come in again and we missed most of the service. By the time we were back we just saw people crying and raising their hands to say a few words.

It sucked. It made it worse.


Chapter 2: Bubbles

Things got better in primary school. By then school breaks were moved to winter.

We had younger teachers and smaller groups.

I really enjoyed the people in my first bubble

Since most of us have siblings of similar ages each bubble had a couple of households and one teacher.

We could go to each other's households. It was nice.


But it also was not.

Every year we would be in a different bubble.

We would lose our friends and we could not visit others. Sure video conference and virtual reality improved but it was hard.


In third grade, my family joined the Gordon's again. It was so great.

But my closest friend from first grade Linda was different. She was heartbroken. In the previous year the other households had bullied her and she did not know what was happening. It was just 10 children but she was in shock and could not trust anyone. Not anymore.

I tried to talk to my parents but they would not believe me. They attributed it to the fact that one of the families had lost their mom in the previous year.

And sure that might be why but the bullying was real.


As always prejudice came and Linda got no help.

We just do not know better.

Do not worry, as soon as this stops, things will go back to normal.

You will have real friends, not these weird things.


My parents always hated the bubble co-parents. Now looking back I think they reminded them of their fragility, their mortality, and their fear of failing as parents. Sadly, I just needed someone to listen.


In fourth grade, we got the vaccine for the first corona pandemic.

It was nice.

We went outside.

Schools opened up.

But I lost my bubble.

I did not know how to interact with all these people.

I was hurt, lonely in this sea of people.

I just needed to cry. I did.

I did. But we are a quiet bunch. Years of trying to pretend not to exist to help our families keep their roof over our heads and avoid disrupting the sacred work made us avoid emotions and accept trauma. We are a quiet bunch.


Chapter 3: Fear Turns to Panic

The change was short-lived.

The covid virus is slow but evolution is deadly. The sars cov3 virus came around in 2025 when I was starting fifth grade.

We knew the signs. But we ignored them.

In the summer the positive rates remained small.

But all over, there were differences. It was not like previous years.


Three versions of a new virus started in Lagos, Jakarta, and Sao Pablo.

The scientists were not prepared. They were mostly confused. The same symptoms came from the three different viruses but instead of protection, every time you got a new type of virus things got worse and worse. The third time was deadly.


My dad had been working in Sao Pablo that fall. He got the virus early on. He got infected with a second one shortly after when a bubbler came home. We all got infected with the Lagos virus.

It was scary for me and my mom. But it was maddening for my dad.


From then on my family was shut out. My dad was 47 but if he by any chance met with the Jakarta virus he would die. No wiggle room, no expensive treatment, no uncertainty, just death.

.

From then on my life stopped. No more school. Even in summer. No more bubbles. No more friends.


It was a hard winter. My sister had left home so at least I had a room for myself. But by the time high school came around

I escaped. I went out met some other drifters

Had my first kiss. My first drink. I had sex.

I got the Jakarta virus.

I knew I would never see my dad again.

I was alone. But I was free. For now.


Chapter 4: What we have Lost

My sister told me how when she was 13 she went to climate strikes. She was outside every Friday asking the world for a future. Crazy. In her time the biggest problem was something that could maybe kill people in the future. How things change. Even if the repercussions remain the same. When corona came the future she fought for ended. No one had time to think of climate change when people died in millions. By 2030 there were no people over 70 left. That is not true, there are a couple I guess. But people do not plan for retirement anymore. Why plan for what you won't get? End working at 65, yeah sure. We could not think of solar panels when we needed to rebuild the world. Carbon in the atmosphere marked 600ppm when I started high school in 2028. 800 by the time I got married at 26. The Maldives, the Netherlands, Venice, Miami, and New York became, what we call reverse aquarium. They are below sea level even at low tide. Hurricanes got last names in 2025. That year we went over the Latin and Greek letters in one year. There has been no one in space since I left high school. But wars have increased. Not global wars. We know Jakarta, Sao Pablo, and Lagos did not fail us. All wars are civil wars now. Every year there are some 10 more countries that try to enter the United Nations. There are now over 60 countries in Western Europe alone, 45 of them in the EU. If anything, the COVn pandemics have shown us how the single world idea is a dream of the privileged. We are not. We are survivors.


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