I wipe away tears at something as simple-seeming as a bagel shop in Brooklyn. An everything bagel — toasted, olive cream cheese, napkins, brown paper bag — is gifted to me through a square carved in plexiglass. There was no guarantee any of this would still be here. All of it built on the frailest precipice.

The familiar jitteriness of the subway. But this time spacious, nearly everyone masked, an MTA Safe Travels poster: “Forgot your mask? Just ask. Free masks are available at staffed station booths.” On a subway screen, a graphic of a masked person looking steady, strong, yet a bit beleaguered is framed with the words, “Gracias, Héroes de COVID-19.” A black sticker on a lamppost reads: “Honor 32,000 fallen New Yorkers. Wear a mask.”

New York City is always so full of ghosts, so much history, so much conquering, immigrating, loss and renewing. Now there is a new feeling, wandering through a wound so fresh, survivors in the middle of surviving.

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A few weeks ago at Chickawaukie I was talking to a man with a large crucifix tattoo on his arm. He seemed very nice, and had enlisted his whole family in looking for the earrings my friend had lost. He and his family had recently moved to Augusta. “From the country to the city. Not sure it was a good idea. Could be riots . . .” I started to wonder what sort of media and racialized fearmongering he had been inhaling, while all the while he liked to believe that he is a man who thinks for himself. He continued into “no worse than the flu” territory, “people are afraid to die now,” and claimed, with absolute certainty, that, “Oh yes, they [the government? Evil scientists?] know all about coronaviruses, since there have been 19 versions so far.” I realized shortly afterwards that he is convinced that the “19” in COVID-19 means there have been 19 versions. Fact: COVID-19 has “19” in its name because this version was discovered in 2019.

How does one begin to speak to these misunderstandings? I tried to ask him questions, gently, but sometimes once you dig into people’s reasoning, there are no real facts or sources — just a space in which they fiercely believe something to be true. I know it can be hard to separate fact from fiction, given that, yes, the government, corporations, religions, etc., can, and sometimes do, actively mislead or lie to us. Initially, for instance, the CDC held back from telling us to wear masks. When the CDC finally advised us to wear face coverings it was late in the pandemic’s ravaging. So who can you trust?

Now, we on the Left are contending that Trump and his appointees are intentionally slowing down the United States Postal Service in order to sow doubt, confusion, and limit access to voting by mail, in order to steal the November election. Fact or fiction? It may appear to be a conspiracy theory, and yet, I think I have done enough research among typically reputable sources to believe it. Am I dupable? Sometimes, but not usually.

I’m also seeing many people in midcoast Maine claim that the Black Lives Matter movement doesn’t care about Black people, that Black Lives Matter is racist, that there is no such thing as systemic racism, that Black Lives Matter is being funded by another favorite bogeymen, Jews, or maybe China, that Black Lives Matter “is not what it seems.”

Again, how do you respond to this? I could say, read the “What We Believe” section of blacklivesmatter.com, the site created by the three Black women co-founders of the movement. But if the naysayers believe Black Lives Matter is just a front for something else, what could possibly convince them otherwise?

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A friend in New York City was finally able to get back to his health clinic a few days ago. The nurse told him, “We all got it. I thought I was going to die.”

I asked my friends who lived through the entire first, crushing wave of the pandemic in the city, “Do you feel traumatized by it?” There is no hesitation. “Yes. Absolutely.” One, a public school teacher, will have to go back to the classroom imminently. She is scared. She has had to carefully research masks, think about airflow, and bring in her own fans. Some of the children she teaches are now orphans of the pandemic; their parents dead of COVID-19.

As I left the city, I saw boxes piled up, then person after person, most with young children, all in masks, spaced out along the sidewalk for more than two long city blocks, waiting in line for food.

Tell a New Yorker you think this whole thing about COVID-19 is a scam, a hoax, God’s will, China’s fault, a deep state conspiracy.