I started this post a week ago. It’s been simmering on the asphalt like flattened roadkill waiting to be laid to rest in the weeds where the road ends. It’s published twice on Cracker, the whole entire paragraph of it, and a few of you were even kind enough to like it. I set the publish date a few days out, confident of my ability to finish it, only to shriek an obscenity when I received notification of its release. I forgot. Twice. Both times I felt like I had just walked outdoors with pink foam-curlers in my hair, wearing nothing but a shabby bathrobe, and a face full of stale make-up from the night before, all of which is odd, since I’ve never used curlers in my entire life, don’t own a bathrobe, and rarely wear make-up, and never the kind in the horror show that flashed vividly before my eyes.
Usually I start my writing on a PDF. Often I open a second PDF and drag sections of writing to it, creating a more streamlined, hopefully organized, work. Other times, I move the draft to WordPress and keep writing from there. In a weird way, this is like changing rooms or locations in order to lure inspiration to the page when writing. Changing platforms, the words become clearer, or at the least, what isn’t working stands up, like a naughty child on the verge of a temper-tantrum, ready to be plucked from the others sitting quietly knee-to-knee in a circle at story time.
Often my final edit takes place on my phone after the piece is published on Cracker. While the timing might not be perfect, this has proved the best method for finding the little mistakes that writers know are the biggest, most troubling ones of all, like finding a small turd on a Persian rug once you’ve invited your guests inside the house.
Last Tuesday I bought a plane ticket home to Houston to see my parents. This was not an easy decision. I went back and forth between driving the 21-plus hours to get there, versus spending five to six hours in a public place, one of them being an airplane. I considered all of the possible implications to both routes of travel and the precautions I would take to mitigate risk. The next day Russ informed me his workplace had mandated a quarantine policy for anyone, spouses included, from traveling to certain states, Texas being one. If I went, I would have to quarantine for two weeks elsewhere upon returning.
I cancelled the ticket. I’m sure this is a blessing in disguise, but I would be lying if I didn’t admit it was gutting as well. To know I am separated from them for the foreseeable future feels horrible and helpless. I worry incessantly. The reality of the situation knocked the wind out of my sails. Once again this week, since the pandemic started, I found myself with no words to put to paper, only with sadness romancing despair.
Today is Mother’s Day and I’m attempting to right the shipwreck on the beach. I can’t be there, but I am grateful my parents are both healthy and hanging in. I’d say they are doing a good job making the best of it, like the rest of us, all of us clinging to the hope our family and friends will fly under the radar of COVID-19. I have a lot to be thankful for, despite the current conditions.
This is just one of many quarantine experiences, but by far the most profound. The others are ancillary at best. This Cinco de Mayo, Russ and I ordered Indian food instead of the standard order of tacos and tequila. The day marked much more than the need for a “normal” ritual. We celebrated the re-opening of my favorite restaurant after the doors were shut for seven weeks, a true acknowledgment of their resilience and determination to survive the odds.
I have also fully embraced the “Quarantini” during the shutdown. I usually have a martini every night, which was not the case before. Martinis were usually reserved for weekends or special occasions. My excuse now is every day feels like a special occasion, so no time like the present. I would like to add that when we do return to eating in a restaurant, it will be difficult to order a $15-20 cocktail after Russ has been mixing them for the last eight weeks. The other evening he handed me a martini and watched me take the first sip. “Too strong?” he asked. I swallowed slowly, savoring a drink well mixed.
I responded, “Seriously, is there even such a thing?”
I’m not convinced my tolerance will ever return to “PC” levels (pre-coronavirus) at this point. Some behaviors are difficult to turn the clock back on, alcohol just being one metaphor for the much bigger life-changing events that have affected so many people, changing their lives forever.
Last week I mailed a package requiring weighing for postage. I walked down to the post office two blocks from my office. As I neared the front doors, I realized I had failed to tie my mask around my neck. I had left home without the bandanna I use to cover my face. I trudged back to the office to find a makeshift alternative, combing through my desk and cupboards. I found running shoes and clothes I keep at the office in the off-chance I have an opportunity to use them. I unrolled my running pants. They crinkled like wrapping paper. I wrapped the stale pants around my face, tying the legs in a knot under my chin. Walking back to the post office with them over my face, I had tears in my eyes. There isn’t anything quite like having the crotch of your pants pulled across your own face. Yes, it could be worse. It could have been someone else’s pants I suppose.
This will probably be the funniest memory that happened during the shutdown in the Spring of 2020. I cling to it because the others are harsh. Watching the homeless mill around DC displaced, lost, angrier is difficult and painful. The landscape of beautiful architecture lining the streets is a vast contradiction to the colorful tents dotting the parks, now spreading to corners of intersections downtown, one-man islands, sprung up like potted plants waiting to bloom.
This blog entry doesn’t feel finished, but it’s enough for now. Better than a paragraph, a draft published too soon, twice. I would love to hear quarantine experiences from others. What has changed for you, maybe for good? What experiences have you had, both frustrating and funny? What does this uncertainty bring to the forefront of your mind?
I went home in February, last minute, after I had just been there for the holidays.
Looking back now, I’m so glad I did.
Happy Mother’s Day, Mom, and to all the mothers out there, both past and present.
I can’t wait until we break bread again, together.
This time, we’ll wash it down with a martini.