APRIL

When you pour gasoline on a fire, you don’t get to take credit for putting it out.

On a webinar livestreamed on YouTube, therapist Esther Perel emphasizes: words matter. It’s physical distancing, she stresses. Not social. It is a time, she says, for creating new boundaries and dissolving old ones. She stops midway through to ask her husband in the kitchen to keep it down. 

*

During our morning walk, I almost say hello to a lawn ornament, thinking it’s a neighbor sitting on their stoop. 

It helps to remove from the door of the refrigerator everything that’s been cancelled: Pelicans tickets, a baby-shower invitation, the Soccer Shots schedule, a postcard for a college reunion I hadn’t planned to attend.

The CDC is recommending everyone wear masks in public.

*

I can only handle the news before 7 a.m. Today’s intake of The New York Times: White House debates face masks; Navy ship with 20 passengers; a photo essay of distanced New Orleanians, the only piece I read all the way through.

We eat at the dining table, the occasion being we cleaned off the dining table, an event worthy of the dishes we reserve for company.

*

We drive 45 minutes to wash our car in my parents’ driveway.

Aside from schools, which my son knows are closed, his interest shifts to what he calls adult places. I tick through everywhere I used to go: libraries, coffee shops, yoga studios, bars, restaurants. Yep, all closed. Remembering the monthly literary salon that used to make me miss his bedtime, he asks, Is Dogfish open? 

*

Over FaceTime, we sing “Happy Birthday” to my sister as she cuts her own cake. 

*

I think I’ve lost weight, though we don’t own a scale. What’s my secret? Walking an hour a day, cooking dinner nightly at home, thinking constantly about preventable mass death.

*

My son’s gone up a shoe size. 

He wakes at 5:30 but no longer naps, so we’ve moved up bedtime. It’s a fourteen-hour day.

*

More than 16 million Americans have lost their jobs.

*

My parents stand in our yard while my son plays in the hose. They’ve been getting out more than we have: donating blood, delivering lunch to hospital staff, buying gift cards for grocery-store cashiers. I hope they’re not putting themselves in harm’s way, but I won’t let myself worry about what I can’t control.

*

It rains for the first time in weeks, a quick, fierce band that blows in right after I’ve fallen asleep. I jolt awake, thinking of our outdoor art: watercolors, brushes, painted rocks, glittered pinecones, all atop flattened cardboard on the porch. Sure enough, it’s getting drenched, so I dart out to haul everything in as the storm lights up the sky. The noise wakes my husband, who grabs a trash bag for the soaked craft materials we aren’t able to save. It takes me two hours to fall back to sleep.

*

My niece is one month old. I don’t know when I’ll get to meet her.

*

I sew a mask from scraps of the pennant flags I made when I was pregnant—the last time I used my sewing machine. On my first attempt, when I turn the mask right side out, I can see that I’ve sewn the straps inside.

*

Masks are a selfie equalizer. It’s hard for anyone to look good in one.

Whole Foods is out of several items; that’s what I get for shopping after noon. Before today, I’d never bought $7 eggs, vegan cream cheese, or organic pantiliners. 

*

It feels awful to write as people continue to die. Why say anything at all? 

We’ve surpassed Italy. Some people still believe we have the best health-care system in the world. 

Louisiana’s numbers are updated daily at noon, a time I dread, though the counts have improved.

It’s still awful.

*

Nothing happened yesterday. I don’t think anything will today, either.

Never mind: it’s trash day. I hear the truck a few blocks over.

*

I’ve got several rounds of phone tag going. Not much talking happening, other than leaving voicemails. Some friends I suspect I won’t hear from until they have childcare again. 

*

A neighbor dad rides by on a bike and asks if we want to see a puppet show. He’s pulling a platform with a bedsheet over it. Out pops Lambchop, then a Cabbage Patch Kid. There’s not much of a plot, but we don’t mind. It’s nice to let someone else entertain us from the curb.

*

Tag: a friend in the Bay Area returns my call. When I see her name, I’m not in the mood to chat, but I answer anyway. She’s a great person to talk to, it turns out, because she’s quarantining with the same number of children, her son who’s a few days older than mine. She bought him a walkie-talkie so he could talk to a neighbor kid, but when the kid said, “Hi!” her son screamed, “I don’t want to talk to you!” because he wanted to play in person.  

*

Theory: some relationships won’t survive this. They’re dead growth in a forest, and this is one hell of a fire.

*

My husband has taken over my desk to work from home. It’s an ideal spot, I admit, surrounded by organized bookshelves that make a lovely Zoom background. It would be insensitive to complain that he’s using all my Post-Its.

I’m thankful he has a job, that these little notes strewn around my workspace still mean something to him. 

*

Germany tentatively plans to re-open. It seems sensible, based on the data, and yet so far away for our ragtag patchwork country, where I fear we will never have a competent woman running things.

*

Date night: we venture to the living room. He irons a button-up; I wear hoop earrings. Then I cry for an hour while he holds me. 

*

I bought Fiona Apple’s Tidal at Circuit City in middle school, but I have not yet had 51 uninterrupted minutes to devote to this new album. Fetch the bolt cutters, please. 

*

They’re saying the U.S. needs to conduct three times the current levels of testing for things to get back to normal. 

I’m not doing things that make me feel bad, because I don’t want to feel bad right now. Why did I want to before?

*

I cry while reading about a bakery. The owners, who fired their employees, are running what amounts to a daily bake sale. I think of the workers who once clocked in before dawn to make the bread; I doubt they’re the ones causing the yeast shortage. Where does that knowledge go?

My heart hurts for everything we have lost. Everyone we have lost. People whose names I will never know.

Déjà vu: Tom Fitzmorris is tracking restaurant openings.

*

A rose-breasted grosbeak stops by our feeder.

*

I felt great yesterday; I didn’t write here at all.

I don’t want to do this today.

*

This will last so much longer than we’d realized.

*

I don’t feel like doing this anymore.

 


Read Colleen Rothman’s original  Single Lines here.

 

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