by Garnett Kilberg Cohen

In between washing bananas, disinfecting packages, and fashioning dishrags into masks, there were concerts in the courtyard. Baird Dodge, second violin in the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and a tenant in the building where we live, stood in the canyon pit created by the four walls of the courtyard. Fourteen stories each. He set up his music stand, tucked his violin under his chin, and drew the bow back and forth. Arco. Or plucked the strings. Pizzicato. Some pressed their faces to windows. Lips against glass. Along with others, we stood on our fire escape, entranced by the sad beauty. No one spoke. The sun set in a space between the brick walls. People became silhouettes. We watched and listened in awe as notes floated up. Our privilege during the plague. In between the concerts, people in neighboring buildings hung from windows, banging pots and pans and blowing party horns each night at 8:00 in tribute to medical workers. Our hearts froze as Baird played “Over the Rainbow,” imagining ourselves at the far end of the arc. We met friends on their back deck, spaced six feet apart. We met others in their parking space behind their building, strung with festive lights. The cold came and the concerts stopped. Wrapped in blankets, we met friends on their porch with heating lamps. Our favorite doorman, Rudy, who played tic-tac-toe with the building’s children, died of Covid. He was 59. Stylish masks appeared for sale everywhere. Funny ones. Shark grins. We stopped washing our fruit. The vaccine arrived and I panicked, afraid we would die before we got ours. Then, I rode the hospital escalator up for my jab, while others in droves passed me going down—a scene from Modern Times. The other side of the rainbow? I can almost hear a saxophone a block west, on Broadway. 

Chicago Symphony Orchestra

Selfie of Garnett Kilberg Cohen.

Garnett Kilberg Cohen has published three collections of short stories, most recently Swarm to Glory. Her fiction and essays have appeared in American Fiction, BrevityThe New Yorker online, TriQuarterly, The Rumpus, The Gettysburg Review, The Antioch Review, Alaska Quarterly Review, The Pinch, Black Warrior Review, and others. Her awards include two Notable Essay citations from Best American Essays, the Crazyhorse National Fiction Prize, the Lawrence Foundation Prize from Michigan Quarterly Review, and four awards from the Illinois Council of the Arts. She is a professor at Columbia College Chicago. 

SLAG GLASS CITY · Volume 7 · November 2021

Header and video by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.