Jeremy TIANG

And now, the world is being unmade around us. What will be left?

Jeremy Tiang is a novelist, playwright and translator from the Chinese (including of books by IWP alumni Zhang Yueran, Su Wei-Chen, Lo Yi-Chin and Wong Yoon Wah). He is from Singapore, and currently based in Flushing, Queens.

I am in Queens, New York, the epicenter of America’s epicenter, but it feels like I am nowhere at all. My world has shrunk to the size of my apartment, which we only moved to a few weeks ago, just in time to never leave it. It’s a nice apartment. There is room for me and my husband to work from home. We will be fine, but in the news I see infection running unchecked in New York jails, and on the other side of the planet, migrant workers isolated in crammed dorms while returning Singaporeans get fancy hotel rooms.

Around me: cupboards full of food, a cat, piles of unread books, Netflix. Everything we need. And part of me thinks, I have done nothing to deserve this. It is unearned. Hard as I have worked, there is no reason I should live in such safety and comfort when the world is falling apart. Another part of me thinks, a small apartment and tinned beans are just the basics, food and shelter. What is broken is that so many people do not have these necessary things. It feels trite to say this, because the fact is so obvious – and yet it feels insurmountable.

I do the little I can – donating money, making phone calls to elected representatives (not elected by me, I am not a citizen and do not have a vote), avoiding human contact. One person has so little leverage in remaking the world, and it will take remaking the world to repair these problems, so entrenched are they. These are not new problems, but the extremity of the situation lays them bare with greater clarity. And now, the world is being unmade around us. What will be left? Perhaps, I hope, we can assemble something better with the pieces.