Near the end of Half a Yellow Sun, the heroine crosses over enemy lines to procure food and medicine for her family, their bellies distended with kwashiorker. They are a privileged family; part of the tragedy of the story is her own disbelief that these children could be deformed by what is, classically, a disease of poverty. The war is, essentially, over. Her side has lost. But it is a brokered surrender and life is expected, relatively soon, to return to some semblance of normality. This one last trip across the frontier is, in a basic sense, superfluous — they are going to survive, they have enough to make it through, and the white aid worker boyfriend is there in the wings ready always to arrange the visas that will transport her and her kin to comfort in the metropole.
She dies in the crossing. Actually, we assume she dies, as her body is never found.
This current time feels a little like that. The awfulness of the past year is almost at an end. The vaccine is being distributed (my parents have both received their first doses!). The barbarian mob was defeated in the very halls of the Capitol. And even if the bodies are piling up so fast that they’ve had to relax the regulatory standards for crematoria, we can see an end to the horror.
And every time I walk into a grocery store I wonder if I’m going to walk out with the beginnings of a glass lung.