Day 46: Monday, April 27
Eric takes the pizza out of the oven. “You wanna come warm your hands up?” he says. The door is still propped open.
“I wanna crawl in there like Sam McGee,” I say. I reference Sam McGee at least every other week in winter. This spring I’ve been saying his name a lot too.
I step next to him and stick my hands out. “It’s like a sauna,” I say. I wrap my arms around him. He puts down the oven mit. We let the heat pour over us. I close my eyes. I imagine the pizza smell is cedar. We’re somewhere snowy, or rainy. Somewhere cold. Somewhere foreign. Somewhere where viruses do not exist, or at least, they don’t matter. We’re in our bathing suits, drinking tequila or bourbon. I laugh, opening my eyes. Eric looks at me.
“It’s like what they always said about the War. Imagining things they couldn’t do. Places they couldn’t be. We were just in a sauna. And it was lovely.”
Day 47: Tuesday, April 28
It is finally spring. I turn under plots and count worms. Mornings like this I start off bundled up. Every few shovel fulls I strip off a layer. First my vest, then my sweater, then a scarf, a hat. Even my sweatshirt goes today.
Eric finishes his work early so we can hike up to the waterfalls.
“Your seat’s taken,” he says when we get to Star Falls. It’s been raining so fiercely that the water is flowing where I usually sit. I pick a spot further back. I can’t dangle my legs over the edge so I take my shoes off instead.
My body distracts my meditation. An itch, a hovering fly, a pinch in my abdomen, my leg falling asleep. Instead of rejecting them I incorporate them. I practice welcoming them like old friends. I practice opening my heart to them. By the end I’m floating again. Floating, yet falling, and held.
Day 48: Wednesday, April 29
I have a spiritual breakthrough wherein I realize (as we all must realize or be tortured for the rest of our lives by our particular neurosis) that I am who I am and there’s no stopping that. But I can accept who I am and not be at war with my physiology and thereby be open to the discomfort, open to the uncertainty, open to the fear. Without resistance, feelings lose their oppositional power. They simply are.
I have a dream that a large orange goldfish is living in my toilet. We have no where else to put him and he seems content enough so we leave him there. But he also seems unhappy so I add some plants to the bowl to clean the water and also spruce up the joint. However after I’ve added the plants there’s not enough room for the goldfish and he’s constantly jumping out of the water. Also, we still need to use the toilet and I’m afraid there’s too much uric acid in the water. In addition, I appear to be growing some sort of coyote skull in a jar, which I’ve added plants to as well and I contemplate whether the skull container is large enough for the goldfish and whether I want to give up my skull to save him.
Day 49: Thursday, April 30
I hear Eric open the front door. Our liquor delivery is here. A silver haired gentleman stacks our boxes on a dolly.
“Eric,” I whisper. “Don’t get too close.” Forever his memory.
“I just want to tell him he can leave them on the ground,” he says. When I peer outside again he’s moved closer to the edge of the porch.
“Eric,” I pop my head outside. He looks to me gently.
“I know Jenny,” he smiles. I’ve learned from him what it means to accept my neurosis. He’s been doing it for years.
We sit in the sunroom before dinner and I light the incense we bought fourteen years ago in Hanoi. We only light it when the weather reminds us of Hanoi in October. Cool and rainy.
“Do you remember the day we watched the rugby match?” Eric asks me, evoking the trip.
“I remember taking a shower. A real, proper hot shower, where the water was hot and I wanted it to be.” We’d been living in Bangkok for five months when we took a week’s vacation to Northern Vietnam. The chill in the air and the damp reminded us of true autumn. It was only ever summer in Bangkok and the only showers you could take were steaming hot from the water tank absorbing equatorial sun on the roof. All I ever wanted was tepid water. I always came out of the shower sweating more than when I went in. Hanoi gave us shivers and the false feeling of seasons changing. “And then I just layed in bed under the covers and napped. It felt so good to be under the covers.”
“And we bought that mandolin and I played it all day. And then we ate at that restaurant, up on the porch.”
“And took pictures of the Vietnamese police in their beautiful uniforms.”
“And we met up with Benny and Brian at Beer Alley.” Beer Alley was just what it sounded like. A hidden cobblestone alley where tarpaulins jutted out from walls, water dripping down your back where you sat on plastic crates at tiny tables. Teenage boys wearing flip flops with their jeans rolled up to their knees were running beers. Filling mugs from kegs lined up on the opposite alley wall. Beers cost something like 10 cents and each time they gave you a beer they marked a dash on a tally they kept on a napkin at your table. At the end of the night they counted up all the tallies and told you what you owed. We’d sit there all night and never owe more than a dollar.
“Do you remember that other restaurant? It was across from the Americanized coffee shop. You walked in and there was a little alcove with a front desk and the floor was beautiful Vietnamese tile and the family who owned the restaurant lived in the loft and all the little kids were huddled on a mattress watching a tiny blue glowing television. The food was amazing. It was the first time we had five spice powder.”
“I remember the pond.”
“And we ate on that steamboat.”
“Remember that bar we went to? where we ordered beers and drank them on the roof and when we asked the waitresses if we could buy the glass the beer came in she thought we wanted another beer.” We liked to collect glasses and we always had this problem. Especially in Thailand. In Thai the word for glass is the same as the word for the number nine. And also the word old. Just with different inflections. There was a time when a server thought we wanted to buy nine glasses of old beer.
What we didn’t talk about was where we bought the incense because it’s a story both of us know and remember. We had smelled it throughout the city. It permeated everything. Hung in the cool damp air like woodsmoke or mesquite. We finally found a shop selling it, with women in their skirts and flip flops sitting on the floor in front of amber mounds of incense powder, rolling it into joss sticks. We bought two bundles of it, rolled up in rose colored paper. I also picked out two journals that were displayed in the window. Journals and incense were the only thing this shop was selling and it seemed perfectly suited to me because I needed both, but the owner and the women rolling incense looked at me with sorrow and bowed, and cast their eyes downward with demured sadness. We found out later at our guest house that these journals and incense were used to honor the dead. Families kept volumes of journals for family members who had passed away, bringing them out each year on the anniversary of their death to read all the memories that had been written down, while burning incense to honor them.
We remember this each time we burn this incense. That’s why we still have nearly a dozen sticks left after fourteen years. And so whenever we burn it we try to honor and remember, whether it’s someone’s life, or a time gone by that feels so far away now and like someone else’s life entirely.
Day 50: Friday, May 1
Eric spends some time on the phone with the bank and also the insurance company and also my father who happens to be our lawyer. We’re still trying to work out our refinance. It feels like this has been dragging on for months but people seem to have accepted this slower pace and aren’t fighting it as much. At least that’s how it appears to me.
We get news that another family friend has covid. But three people we know that had been hospitalized are back home. I didn’t think that was a thing that happened and it feels like the best news we’ve gotten.
Day 51: Saturday, May 2
The sun is medicine.
On Friday I notice that the leak in the upstairs hallway is back. Eric pulls out a lightweight ladder and carries it upstairs. We thread the ladder through the window in the Maple Room (it’s always been called the Maple Room because the floors and furniture are maple, as opposed to the Oak Room whose floors and furniture are….oak). We prop it against the side of the house on the side porch roof. While I steady it Eric climbs up, then shimmies on his belly to the crest of the roof and crawls over to the other side where the leak is coming from.
“Please don’t fall off the roof,” I say. “I mean, don’t fall off the roof on a normal day, but really don’t fall off the roof today.”
“Oh, you don’t want me to fall off the roof?” Eric jokes. “I’ll be careful.”
I head back through the window, down the stairs, and outside to the other side of the house where I can see him.
“Do we have any spray foam?” he shouts down.
“I can look,” I say, but I doubt it. To my delight I find a can of it in the cellar and head back outside. I hold it out for him to see. He’s as surprised as I am.
“Great! I’ll meet you on the other side.”
I run upstairs and climb the bottom few rungs to hand him the can. Before I know it he’s finished, coming down backwards, legs first off the roof. His legs hang out at a 90 degree angle because knees can’t bend backwards.
“This sucks!” he shouts. “What if I just lower myself down?”
“NO! You’ll stumble back with momentum and fall off the roof. Just keep inching back, when you can bend your hips I’ll guide your feet to the ladder.” His feet are nearly there. One inch from the step, but he can’t see or sense it and he must feel like he’s floating in space.
“Where is it?” he’s starting to sound frantic. He’s running out of roof to hold on to.
“You’re right there,” I say. My hands are clasped around the ankles of his Timberlands. I tug at them gently and place them on the ladder. “Right there.”
“Oh, thank you,” relief.
“It’s beautiful up here,” I say. Relaxed enough to finally see the view. Delicate white bradford pear flowers meet us at eye level. Robins, cardinals, chickadees and finches flit around us. Fluorescent dangling maple flowers cascade from each leaf bud. The gauzy pink of the weeping cherry. The sky is blue. The emerging grass is green. So much green. I swell with gratitude.
Day 52: Sunday, May 3
We finish our chores early and Eric packs a bag with his mushroom knife, a spade, and some gloves. He mentions a few places he wants to hike to. He’s been watching people stream up the road all day to the waterfalls behind the house and knows our usual trails will be busier than I’m comfortable with, but I’m pretty sure all of the trails he’s mentioning will be even busier. We decide to go for the drive anyway.
As we approach the trail we see the typically empty five car lot is packed. Even more cars are lined up and down the road.
“We’ll try the next one,” he says. But the next trail has thirty some-odd cars on both sides of the road.
We drive around for awhile with the windows down and go home.