Before and After 

Just a few months ago 
we thought nothing of breathing down the neck
of a stranger in front of us at The Home Depot 
Eating at a restaurant wasn’t a risky act 
Talking to your neighbor didn’t make you hesitate 
Hugs were as common as squirrels and pennies 
Going to church wasn’t the kind of act
undertaken only by the stupid fearless
who ride motorcycles at rush hour and jump off bridges.

Just a few months ago 
Shopping for groceries wasn’t a calculated risk 
Going to the movies was thrilling because our hero might risk death
but not because we would 
You never worried whether your best friend was a carrier
of a lethal disease with no visible symptoms 
Unless you were a hypochondriac. 

We say we can’t wait for things to return to normal 
To sit at the bar shoulder to shoulder with strangers 
To play cards with elderly friends without worrying about
the consequences of our laughter 
To see a smile unfettered by a face mask 

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I long for those things myself, but I tell you now
There will be a Before and an After

Some workers now working-from-home won’t be returning to their cubicles
Sitting in traffic, going out to lunch, wearing nice clothes 
wearing pants 
these things will be part of Before
Cruise ships may be a part of Before like bath houses and wooden streets and fires that burned entire cities to ash.

Those sneeze shields at the checkout register aren’t going away 
Facemasks may be a permanent part of Christmas shopping
Getting your temperature taken before entering the Apple store
may be a permanent part of the After

This will be a line in the sands of time that will never be erased 
Like the black plague and the civil war and the Beatles on Ed Sullivan
There was a Before and then there was an After 
Which was better? 

Was it always better Before?
Before the great depression
Before fire safety practices
Before child labor laws 
Before the eight hour workday
Before birth control pills
Before the war 
Before rock n roll 

For decades, doctors warned against the common cup
That single tin cup tied to the water cooler 
for all to sip from 
which passed disease to all the sippers. 
For decades, doctors warned against this danger 
and for decades people ignored it 
Was it better Before

Perhaps After will come with benefits. 
More awareness of the effects of a sneeze in Starbucks
and a cough in Qdoba. 
Maybe people won’t come to work sick… 

But some things 
Some things 
cannot be suppressed forever. 

Live music will always attract a crowd 
who sing along with the good songs 
who shout and giggle and applaud 
who feel the connection that comes with sharing a special moment that
only a very few 
or ten thousand 
will get to enjoy 
because you were there on that day in that place 
and it will never happen the same way again. 

Some of us need to be in a sweaty jumping mosh pit
exhausted, laughing 
feeling lucky that that elbow to the face 
was only a glancing blow.

Dinner parties can’t be banned forever. 
A comedian in a crowded laughing nightclub is a vital necessity 
Just like singing How Great Thou Art in a crowded church. 

Some of us will kiss a stranger on the first date. 
Some of us will exchange many kisses 
And it will be magic. 

People need to dance.
It is in our souls. 
We cannot 
We shall not 
be contained. 

Matt Farr is a writer and product management professional living in Centennial.