Social-Distancing/Quarantine: Days 1-6


Day 1: Friday, March 13.
Already I can’t breathe. I change the air filter in the furnace. I google COVID symptoms like every other hypochondriac. I know it’s just panic. I can breathe when I meditate.

Eric and I walk up into the woods and my heart is pounding out of my chest.
“I’m having another heart attack,” I tell him.
“You’re not,” he says.
“I know.”
“Is it panic or the mountain?” he asks.
“It’s both.”
“That’s why we’re meditating. It’s good for our heads and for our hearts.”

In the middle of our meditation I have a vision of someone pushing me off the edge of the mountain and into the creek below. “I am facing my fear of death,” I tell myself.
Aren’t we all.

Day 2: Saturday, March 14.
I just saw the person who handed me a drink cough into the neck of their shirt. I am already nearly finished with said drink.

I spend too long wondering about virus protocols in the funereal industry. We have to go to a wake tomorrow. My family has undertaking in our blood. My Uncle tells me about how they’re not even allowed to have funerals in Italy right now. He just saw a guy in a hazmat suit exit the building we’re standing across from.

Eric and I find ourselves weeping quietly to Nina Simone’s version of “Lilac Wine.” (Typically I only cry to the Jeff Buckley version). Beauty feels essential right now.

Day 3: Sunday, March 15. 
Eric and I hike up the mountain to the waterfalls to meditate again. I pick a spot in the sunlight where I can see a cascade of falls. I imagine the water flowing is time itself. The water I see in this moment will soon be far down the creek, just as someday this moment will feel far away from me. I meditate on impermanence. I cry a lot. It feels good to let it out.

We go to the wake. There are no confirmed cases down in Kingston (as opposed to the 12 we have in Albany County) but I still won’t touch anything. I make Eric sign the guest book. I squirt his hands with sanitizer when he’s done. I told myself I wouldn’t hug anyone, but everyone that’s grieving acts like the virus doesn’t exist. I squirm my way out of two hugs and wai to the rest of them. I feel so guilty. I wonder when the no-hugging thing will catch on.

Everyone brought their own flasks. I asked Dad not to share his with anyone so he filled it with a 15 year to rub it in. I’m worried about him giving the virus to my mom.

My family walks to the nearest bar. It’s completely empty. We order drinks and sit outside, farther apart than usual, hand sanitizer in the center like a bottle of ketchup. My dad wipes down the outside of his glass. It feels like the end of days.

Day 4: Monday, March 16.
Before this whole thing started we bought a 50 lb. bag of oats. We eat a lot of oats. Then we joked that if we ran out of food at least we would have our bag of oats. Eric said he didn’t think he’d be able to eat oats for dinner and I said there must be a savory oat recipe and there is and we made it and it was delicious.

Day 5: Tuesday, March 17.

We ran out of eggs and yogurt. We stop at the grocery again. I ask Eric to only get what we need. He’s already been out two times. I wait in the car with my hand sanitizer. I watch multiple people get out of their cars and then run back to get their reusable shopping bags. Even in a crisis we’re remembering our bags.

When Eric comes back with another sack of clementines I inform him he has to eat at least two clementines a day or else they will start to go bad. We already have a bowlful at home. He promises he will.

“There is plenty of food in the grocery store,” he announces.

My brother asks me if we need lettuce. He had to clear out the refrigerators at his bar. I ask how his staff are doing. “I haven’t seen them since last night when I told them we had to close. Everyone stayed after hours to drink away their sorrows. At least we made some money that night.”

Day 6: Wednesday, March 18.
Eric ate 5 clementines today. I informed him that this was overkill.

A woman with a cane in one hand and several stacked packages in the other approaches the post office door at the same time as I do. I skip ahead and hold the door for her.
“Take your time,” I say as she struggles up the step. “Oh thank you,” she replies with a sigh, “I like your pom pom.” She’s talking about my hat. She stops and looks at me closer. “Do you mind… I have another package in my back seat. Could you grab it for me?” she continues through the door I hold open.

“Of course,” I say.
I can’t breathe suddenly so it isn’t hard to hold my breath.
I’m fine. You’re fine. It’s fine.
I deliver her package to the front desk.
“How you doing Da’von?” I ask our Village Postal Worker.
“Hangin’ in there.”
I don’t believe him.
“Stay safe,” I say.
“You as well.”

As I’m leaving I blow off Mr. Smith and Keith. “Hello, hello,” I say quickly to each of them. I don’t even take off my sunglasses.
I throw my gloves in the washing machine when I get home.
I hate the person I’ve become.

We eat the last of a giant box of salad greens for dinner to make room in the fridge for the apples Eric bought last night at the store. I prefer fruit with peels right now.

When we walk this evening there is a group of kids playing street hockey in the dusk. “Look at them,” Eric says as we approach. “They have no idea.”

2 thoughts on “Social-Distancing/Quarantine: Days 1-6

  1. Oh Jen. Thank you for writing this. Your words connect to my experience this week as well. How tiny and vast and suffocating and empty the moments feel. It is a time for writing, to work through our days, our minutes, our fears, our losses. My love to your family, to you and Eric. Please hug each other from me.

    • I find it always helps alleviate our fears when we know we’re not alone in feeling them. Much love to you! Stay safe + sane.

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