This is going to be great! My boss at the furniture store said she would continue paying us for as long as she could, so this isn’t much different from a vacation. I’m sure things will get back to normal soon. In the meantime, I can clean my house top to bottom and finally get everything organized. I picked up supplies from the grocery store yesterday, and I managed to resist buying any junk food, so I will be forced to embrace clean eating. I mean, I have the opportunity to embrace clean eating. I can get up early every morning and do yoga with the sunrise. I will come out of this self-isolation thing healthier and refreshed. For dinner: chickpea curry and quinoa.
I sleep in. I’ll start early morning yoga tomorrow. I spend two hours rearranging my living room, then decide I liked it better the other way, so I put it all back. An uncle gave me a copy of all seven volumes of Remembrance of Things Past when I graduated from college. He said with a degree in English Literature, I wasn’t going to be able to find a job so I would have plenty of time to read it. (Ha, ha.) The joke’s on him. I have been too busy to read it. Now, I finally have the time. I sit down with the first volume. Then I grab my tablet and check on the latest news. The virus is spreading. The death toll is rising. I feel bad for thinking of this time as a vacation. A lot of people are hurting right now. I open the app store and download a couple of games, then play until the charge runs out on my tablet. For dinner: roasted sweet potatoes and chickpeas.
When I picked up supplies, the only bread left in the store was hot dog buns and the free range, organic, forty-seven seed kind that costs ten dollars a loaf. I decided it was a fine time to learn how to bake bread, so I went to the baking aisle. The store was out of flour and yeast. I went back for the hot dog buns. For lunch, I make myself a salad and stuff a hot dog bun with turkey lunch meat and bread and butter pickles. I wish that I had iced tea to drink with it, so I get out my sun tea jar. I fill it with water and add lemon ginseng tea bags, then set it out on the patio. Tomorrow I will have tea. For today I make do with diet soda. After lunch, I sit down on the couch with volume one of Remembrance of Things Past. I check the news on my tablet again and scroll through various “quarantine recipes.” I save a few. I open the book to the first page, then realize I am staring off into space. There is a famous passage in the book where the narrator eats a madeleine and the flavor brings on a flood of childhood memories. Maybe I should make madeleines before I start the book. I look up recipes and discover I need a madeleine pan. I find some online but stop myself before I order. I’m not sure when I’ll be returning to work. Now is not the time for frivolous purchases. Instead, I go to a gardening website. My backyard is tiny and the grass is patchy. I’ve been thinking I should turn it into a garden. That way I won’t have to rely on the grocery store for fresh produce this summer. I order several packets of seeds. I also order exercise bands, drawer organizers and a cute scrub brush shaped like a cat. I go to check on the sun tea and it’s the color of urine. Giving it more time in the sun doesn’t help. I consider pouring it down the drain but put it in the refrigerator instead. This is no time to be wasteful.
I check the news. The virus has spread exponentially overnight. I text my sister in California. Autocorrect tries to change “self-quarantine” to “al-Quaeda.” So helpful! I check the news again. And again. And again. WHY DIDN’T I BUY REESE’S PEANUT BUTTER EGGS WHEN I WAS GETTING ESSENTIAL SUPPLIES? WHAT WAS I THINKING?
Day Four and a Half
No need to panic. I have peanut butter and chocolate chips. I can make my own peanut butter cups. I look up recipes online. They all call for powdered sugar. I check the back of the cabinet in case the previous owner of the house left behind a bag I didn’t notice when I moved in. No powdered sugar. I check the news again. I keep touching my face. Why can’t I stop touching my face? I order pizza with contactless delivery.
I check the news. Things are getting steadily worse. I find that I bought too much produce. Some of it is getting spots, so I make a big pot of vegetable soup. I don’t feel like eating any right now, but soup is always better the next day, anyway. I get out the pizza from yesterday and start working my way through the Resident Evil movies, taking frequent breaks to check the news.
It turns out face masks are effective after all and I need one. I tie a bandanna around my face and spend ten minutes making finger guns at myself in the mirror. Then I read an article online about how to make a mask from an old t-shirt. After forty minutes of searching, I find a travel sewing kit. I pull out one of my ex-husband’s t-shirts and start cutting. Somehow, I pinch my finger with the scissors and it bleeds a little bit. I check the blades of the scissors to see how dirty they are and find a little bit of rust. When was the last time I had a tetanus shot? I Google lockjaw. Maybe I should go to the emergency room and get a tetanus shot. But I can’t go to the hospital because I don’t have a face mask. I clean the wound and put a band-aid on it. Then I check the news again.
I start the day by reading an article about how t-shirt material is completely useless for face masks. I go back to bed.
The seeds arrive. I realize I have no idea how to start a garden. Do I need a hoe? I don’t have one. I will need to do a little research. I find a partial box of breakfast sausage links in the back of the freezer. I knock most of the frost off and fry them, then stuff them into a hot dog bun and drizzle some barbecue sauce on top. I am out of diet soda. I consider the pee tea, but then make a pot of coffee instead. After lunch, I decide to give myself a pedicure. I get out the foot bath from under the bathroom sink and fill it with water. When I plug it in, nothing happens. I turn it off then back on again. Still nothing. I dump the water in the front yard and carry the foot bath to the curb. Then I remember I can’t put it in the regular trash because it’s electronic. It joins the broken fan and dead laptop in the garage.
Day Eight and a Half
The electricity goes out. I sit on the couch taking deep breaths and telling myself it will come back on soon. What if everyone at the electric company gets sick? Should I have bought a generator? Why didn’t I buy a house with a fireplace? How do I get one of those barrels that people in movies use to make fires? What if something happens to the gas supply and I can’t fill up my car? I don’t live close enough to anything to walk. I’d have to get a bike. But everyone would need bikes, so how would I get one? What if all the bike factories close? What if all the food factories close and we can’t even get canned goods anymore? What if the furniture store stays closed and I have to find a new job, along with thousands of other people? It’s spring. What if there’s a tornado and it wipes out my house and I have to go stay in a shelter with a whole bunch of other people and all I have is a t-shirt mask with one strap sewn on? What if…? The lights flicker and the electricity comes back on. Once the modem reboots, I check the news. Then I order pizza again. And a brookie.
I can’t eat another chickpea. Or another bowl of soup. I pour the rest into a storage container. I have to shift the stuff in the freezer to make room. When I shove aside a Cool Whip container, it’s surprisingly heavy. There’s no label on the lid. I try to open it to see what’s inside, but it’s frozen shut. I start to get excited. Maybe it’s Bolognese. Or chicken and noodles. Or fried rice. I put it in the refrigerator to thaw. I get online to place a grocery pickup order, which is exciting. I haven’t been out of the house in over a week. I know the grocery store will probably be out of lots of things, but not everything. I order three different kinds of peanut butter cups, just in case. I spend an hour perfecting my list, then click the box to choose a pickup time. The first available slot is in ten days. I get out the leftover pizza and sit down in front of the TV to start watching Tiger King. The first volume of Remembrance of Things Past is on the coffee table. I scoot it aside so I can put my feet up.
The mystery container from the freezer turns out to be chicken broth. That would have been handy if I wanted to make soup. Oh, wait. I already did that. Okay. I have rice in the cupboard and vegetables in the freezer. Maybe I can make some sort of casserole. The exercise bands arrive. I am less excited about them now. I also remember my morning yoga plan and laugh until I snort. A little exercise would be a good idea, though. I turn on an oldies station and dance around the house, but I tire quickly. I haven’t been sleeping well. With all the time in the world, why can’t I nap? I’m so tired, but when I lie down all I do is stare at the ceiling, mind racing. Maybe I should go back to college. I could get a Masters in . . . something. Maybe I should start my own business. Of some sort. Maybe I should plan a heist. There’s got to be a museum around here with a fabulous diamond on display. I open some tuna and eat it straight from the can while I check the news.
I wake on the couch. The TV is displaying a Netflix screen asking me if I’m still watching The Gilmore Girls.
What’s that smell?
Oh. It’s me.
How many nights has it been since I slept in my bed? I throw all the bedding from the couch into the washer. Then I clear the coffee table and vacuum the living room. In the bedroom, I nearly trip on the box with the exercise bands in it. I shove it under the bed with my foot. After a long, hot shower, I dress in clean clothes. On my last trip to the grocery store I had picked up a jumbo canister of oatmeal. I make myself a bowl of it, with dried cranberries and chopped pecans. There is noise out on the street. I raise the blinds and look out. A couple is walking their dog. A kid rides by on a bike. It looks like a normal spring day. I press my nose to the glass and watch them while the sun warms my face.