“Be careful with that,” the doctor told the nurse, pointing to the vials of blood bagged up carefully on the table next to her. He took off his gloves, tossed them into the biohazard bin and left, probably to go check on any one of the dozens - or possibly hundreds - of patients under his watch. It was just the three of us there now, the nurse and me and my mother laying on the bed, pale-looking and slightly emaciated. She was sweating a bit. She looked at me and smiled. She reached out her hand to hold mine, but before I could grab it the nurse stopped me, gripping my wrist. It was a firm grip, but there was tenderness in it.
“With gloves,” she said softly. She let go and handed me a pair. They fit snugly, and I know they kept me safe, but I would've given anything to feel my mother's skin one more time, to take off this mask and kiss her cheek, to stand up to walk over and give her a hug without the image of some quarantine somewhere rooting me in place, reaffirming my helplessness and ineffectuality.