Every Wednesday, for the past three years, I’ve been running Chinese-English translation events. Yesterday’s text was about face masks, speculating why westerners don’t wear them. This word popped up in a sentence, ‘气溶胶’ – translating as ‘aerosol’.
Earlier that day, I had come across a picture showing a primary school in Taiwan. Kids isolated at their desk, with yellow plastic around their desk. Each in their own little bubble of air.
Late in the evening, on my final corona-Facebook check, I came across this in a friend’s post: “NEVER shake used or unused clothing, sheets or cloth. While it is glued to a porous surface, it is very inert and disintegrates only between 3 hours (fabric and porous), 4 hours (copper, because it is naturally antiseptic; and wood, because it removes all the moisture and does not let it peel off and disintegrates). ), 24 hours (cardboard), 42 hours (metal) and 72 hours (plastic). But if you shake it or use a feather duster, the virus molecules float in the air for up to 3 hours, and can lodge in your nose.”
It was a bit of a joke, in high school, to feel grossed out that we breathe the same air. That it goes in my lungs, then out, then into yours – whether I consent or not. With Covid-19, this came home. I noticed myself, the rare times I’ve been out this week, dodging people. As I replay those encounters in my head now, I imagine each of those passers by leaving a trail of aerosol, and how I stepped right into it. I imagine the mist of viral dust floating through the streets, like bushfire smoke, like John Carpenter’s Fog.