July 29, 2020

Four and a half months into the quarantine, you find yourself rearranging books in the middle of the day, hands clotted with dust and sweat beading on your forehead, the summer sun pouring in through the skylight. This, after spending the last three days trying to determine if it would be viable to keep a frog in your apartment, to keep a chinchilla, to keep anything other than yourself that breathes, before settling on a handful of house plants. Thus, the rearranging of books. You’ve read Ovid, you’ve read Marquez, you’ve read and reread Lewis. You’ve failed at planting seeds and semi-succeeded at planting things Better Homes and Gardens assured you would grow in the shaded, barren plot of dirt beneath your windows. So far, so good, but slugs have been noshing on one of them, despite the coffee grounds you’ve been dutifully sprinkling around its base, which are supposed to deter the slugs but may only be spurring them on. Your only hope is that the plant will grow at a faster rate than the rate at which it’s being consumed. There is, you are certain, some sort of metaphor in this. Oregon is still in Phase 1 of reopening, though this means next to nothing, since everything you care about is either closed or modified beyond recognition, every person is still keeping their distance, every step out the door means donning a disposable mask because you refuse to buy a reusable one, refuse to spend money on what, years later, will be a reminder of that time in 2020 when everyone got shut inside their homes, and every day, you waited for the plague doctors from the 14th century, with their long black robes and bird beak masks, to come parading down the streets. But whether or not you want to, you will remember this. You will remember, every two weeks, taking your car all the way down Terwilliger from the base of the OHSU hill to where it dead-ends at Lake Oswego, what you’ve come to refer to as “the quarantine loop,” a drive you take so that your car, itself caked in dust, remembers its purpose. You are trying to remember your purpose. You are trying to be grateful to work and to write, and you are, but God, how the edge of it all—this world, its sickness, its bloodbath of arguments—seeps into the heart of each identical day. “How are you holding up?” we ask each other, and what a question. We answer with a shrug. We rearrange our living rooms, we sit on interminable Zoom calls, we make weekend trips to the hardware store. We look out the windows, our windows, the only place there is to look, and pray that, whatever we see there, will one day once again make sense.

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