Uncovered Quarantine Notes From the 1918 Influenza

By Julia Edelman and Ginny Hogan

Illustrated by Katy Fishell

Ever since our new Work from Homestead policy was in place, I haven’t heard from Brian. I wonder if he wants to see other people, or is just scared of getting infected.

Things seem strange. All around, there’s an air of doom and gloom, like we must stay inside or risk imminent death. Everyone’s talking about the Spanish flu, but no one seems to care about the flu within my heart (Brian hasn’t kissed me in days).

Brian is still claiming we need to be distant from each other, even though I’m sure this will blow over any second now. This is just like that time our town had that dance, and he told me stay across the room in case “anyone saw us together.” I’m tired of him being so scared to be seen with me in public, regardless of how much I’ve sneezed.

The midwife says Brian is coughing. I say he’s fake-coughing. Men!

This horrid flu could last another two years, the town leaders are saying. Meanwhile, Brian is unable to commit to plans to sit in a meadow next weekend. “I don’t know what I’ll be doing or who will have wiped their nose near me,” he keeps saying. I just wish I believed he would stick around half as long as this plague is expected to.

I’ve grown mold beneath my bonnet. I am DISGUSTING, hence why Brian doesn’t LOVE ME. 

Mother says the mold is worrisome and must be examined at the infirmary.

Brian still refuses to hold my hand in public. I get that he fears death, but I also wish he would take what we have seriously?

I have grown rather sick of sardines.

I want him to commit to me forever, but he says that’s too long. I keep reminding him it’s 12 years shorter than it used to be, but my pleas have fallen on deaf ears. Actually, I wonder if illness has made him deaf – I can only hope.

I just vomited in front of Brian. I thought he’d think it was sweet, that I was exposing myself to him. I mean, it was involuntary, but still – I wouldn’t exhibit signs of influenza in front of a man I didn’t trust.

We don’t know when this sickness will end. It’s taken so many already. Grandmother, Auntie, Auntie, Auntie, Auntie, and Uncle. One more dead relative, and I swear, I will focus on that instead of Brian.

Brian has been trying to have me committed to an infirmary because I’m once again showing obvious signs of illness. Sweet that he noticed!

The infirmary wouldn’t take me because my symptoms had subsided. They’ve taken Jane Biddle instead, because she is knocking on death’s door. Good – I’m glad she’s out of Brian’s eyesight, she always did loosen her top corset string when he approached.

My symptoms may be gone, but like my writing, they live on in the others they’ve touched. Both Mother and Brian have come down with the virus, perhaps as a sign from the Lord that they weren’t showing me enough love.

Brian has written to me to warn me to stay away. He says for my safety, because his lung is infected. He cares about me! He really does!

Mother has passed. I wonder if Brian will come to the funeral or if he’ll be a little bitch again and say it’s “too risky” to “infect the rest of the town.”

Word has arrived that the disease has taken Brian. Men – they always ghost.

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