Thursday, April 30, 2020

Every Day I'm Puzzlin'

We stack the most recent jigsaw puzzle on top of the previous one before we start the next one - Katie calls it "incepting" - and the stack is up to at least four by now.

This new one promises to be problematic, though, since it may be missing a piece, and an edge piece at that. The pieces are pretty small, too, and they're all cut from pretty much the same mold, so any given piece fits pretty well in any spot, which can be a challenge for somebody who occasionally reverts to just putting pieces places to see if they fit.

But while Katie works on her business, and our roommate cooks himself dinner, I sit at the table where we've set up, and allow myself the small dopamine thrill of fitting in the correct piece in the correct spot, building a picture that's already made, with no consequences, with low stakes.

Wednesday, April 29, 2020

Compare and Contrast

I sit out on the back deck, in full sunshine, basking like a lizard and periodically working on projects for the family business. The bright light is reflecting off of my keyboard, making me squint.

Back inside, I feel like I'm in a cave: it's dark, and cozy. While I like it, it only really feels good because I was outside, even for just a little while.

Tuesday, April 28, 2020

The Days Blend, Part the Second

"Well they had the cushions out on their new deck furniture, but then it rained yesterday, so they took them in," Katie says about the neighbors a few houses down.

"Wasn't it gorgeous yesterday, and it rained the day before that, and today?" I ask.

"But didn't you say later, after we came in, 'I'm so glad we went out when we did?'" she replies. "Or was that this morning?"

Monday, April 27, 2020

Without Nostalgia

The old hard drive is here - "old" is relative, five years maybe? - but finding the adapter, and the cable, is a bit trickier. One's in the closet, the other hiding under a pile of unfiled paperwork.

But once they're both out, the portal to the past is opened, and pieces of plastic and metal, wires and magnetic media, are transformed into memories, old songs, pictures of people I'd forgotten, movies I haven't watched in years, a version of me that only exists in ones and zeros. 

I scroll through, without nostalgia, like an anthropologist looking at a case study of a person who hasn't lived for hundreds of years.

Sunday, April 26, 2020

Something Off

We passed him on the way to the grocery store: a guy, standing inside the little fence in front of a brown stone, no mask, dirty clothes, completely still staring up at the construction scaffolding above him.

Katie's been doing this thing where she very loudly remarks on people not wearing masks in public, hoping she might shame them into doing the right thing, and most of them ignore her or furtively slip their masks back on, but this guy didn't even seem to hear her.

So when we were coming back after a good half-an-hour and saw him still standing there, and he had yet to have moved, I remarked uneasily, "What is this guy's deal?"

Katie saw him, said, "Cross the street?" and we continued our walk on the other side of the road.

Saturday, April 25, 2020

The Days Blend

"Thanks for a nice day," I say as we come in from sitting on the stoop. There had been even fewer people than usual out after midnight, except for a couple of cars and one slow moving police SUV.

Katie smiles and says, "Thank you for a nice day." Then, more thoughtfully, "What happened today?"

Friday, April 24, 2020

Careless Stomping

While cleaning up in the kitchen, I breakdown the pizza boxes from tonight's meal.

I like crushing them, so I put one down and stomp on it with my bare feet.

The little three legged support in the box that keeps the lid from hitting the pizza pierces the lid and only manages to avoid puncturing my foot because my feet are tough from not wearing shoes for the past month and a half.

When I show Katie the bruise on the bottom of my foot, she says sympathetically, "The tiny tables are the worst!"

Thursday, April 23, 2020


"What?" Katie says from the other room.

"Nothing, I just sighed."

"I thought something was wrong."

"No, but sometimes when I'm concentrating on something I forget to breathe."

Wednesday, April 22, 2020

The Weight

Thunder rumbles in a a doubtful yellow sky, and I watch as the massive clouds roll in.

There's no transition between raining and not-raining - it's dry, and then the sky just opens up and dumps while the trees bow their heads in gratitude to the weight of the water.

A dove flutters down from the wall into a backyard behind our apartment building, seeking shelter from the deluge. He lands on a thin sapling branch and struggles to keep his wavering perch with desperate shakes of his tail feathers, as he's buffeted by wind pelted by huge, heavy raindrops.

Tuesday, April 21, 2020

Adventures In Cleaning Supplies

The search for dishwasher detergent continues, so after I drop off the groceries at home, I put on my mask once again and head out into the world.

I walk up the block to the bodega formerly known as "Super Ace," but they seem to be out too. The aisle with the cleaning supplies has the same lightly bombed look as the one at the supermarket - it's not that it's in complete disarray, but the giant chunks of empty space on once full shelves is somehow more disconcerting than if it were a mess, like a bunch of chipped teeth in a mouth of otherwise perfect pearly whites.

I grab a couple of things the grocery didn't have (hot sauce, hand soap) and when I get to the checkout, the woman behind the counter is wearing her mask hanging off of one ear, doing neither of us any good whatsoever, but I just want to go home, so I don't make a big deal about it.

Monday, April 20, 2020

Go To Bed

"As a natural night-owl," Katie says as she towels her hair after her evening shower, "I am enjoying you being more on my schedule."

We stay up late, and wake up relatively late. It feels pretty natural but the cat is used to us going to bed earlier and having the house to herself.

Now, 2 AM rolls around and she stalks the halls, yowling to herself and at us - demanding, perhaps, that we go to bed.

Sunday, April 19, 2020

In Apartment Washer and Dryer Unit

Washing underwear and t-shirts in the sink stresses me out a little, because it requires a certain amount of judgement. How much soap is enough soap, and are you sure you squeezed all of it out when you rinse everything?

After I'm done, the bathroom is humid and cold and clean smelling, with clothes hanging from the shower curtain rod and from every available hook. I look in the mirror above the sink at my uncut hair, and smile ruefully.

Saturday, April 18, 2020

Doing Our Part

After the daily cheering for the healthcare and essential workers, I retreat to the kitchen to continue cooking dinner, but as I come back out to check on Katie, I hear her chatting with someone out the window.

At first I assume someone is flirting with her from one of the buildings across the street, but it turns out to just be an old friend of ours who walked up from his end of Brooklyn in hopes of finding a specific cheese. 

"How are you?" he calls up from the street through his face mask.

"Well, we're young, white, we live in Brooklyn, and we're staying inside..., basically we're fine," Katie answers after a few moments' consideration.

Friday, April 17, 2020

End of Month One In Captivity

I take Katie's phone, upon which we are video calling with her brother, and walk downstairs.

"You're kidnapping me!" he yells, and I ignore him.

We stand on the stoop for a while, watching the empty buses pass on the otherwise empty streets and reminiscing over better times.

"Hey, remember when you stood here and watched our downstairs neighbor run around the block naked in the snow?" I ask him, laughing, and he mentions he might have video.

Thursday, April 16, 2020

Practice Makes Perfect

Tonight, it’s savory pancakes for dinner, because there are no rules, and if I want to make pancakes for dinner, then so be it, and the devil take he who says “Hold, enough!”

The first one is always tricky, because, unless you’re using one of those fancy electric skillets where you can set the temperature, you’re always just kinda guessing as to the heat, but I must have been guessing well today, because the first one, and all the subsequent ones (full of melty cheddar and scallions, served with bacon and sour cream), came out perfect.

“Seems the more I do something, the better I get at it,” I say to Katie, as if this is somehow unusual.

“Sounds like the pattern of your life,” she replies, kindly.

Wednesday, April 15, 2020

Daily Routine (Time Travel)

I get up at nine in the morning, look at my phone for a minute, and it's suddenly ten. So I do my exercises, yoga, stretching, breathing, meditating, some calisthenics, and it's suddenly noon.

So I take a shower, make some food, watch a TV program, sit with my wife and chat a moment, look at my phone, do some inventorying for the family business, and suddenly it's 3:30.

Play a little music, and then it's time to make dinner and the day is done.

Tuesday, April 14, 2020

Seven O'Clock

The opening credits for the show are about to roll when Katie reaches over and grabs the remote to hit pause. "It's seven," she announces as she heads over to open the window, but even with it closed, I can already hear the cheers.

She stands on a little sturdy stool that she's placed by the window, and leans out while I stand behind her, both of us cheering and whistling. It's taken several days, but the whole street now seems to be getting in the spirit: some banging on pots and pans, some applauding and hooting, some whistling, those on the street itself honking horns as they drive (there may even be a vuvuzela somewhere in our block), all of us making some small contribution to try to keep everyone's spirits up, to acknowledge the people who work so hard while all the rest of us sit inside and try not to get sick.

Monday, April 13, 2020

Ready to Ride

After I finish checking the tires and the chains one last time, we haul the bikes downstairs to the street, Katie's under her arm, mine balanced on my shoulder.

"Don't carry your bike like this if your legs are short," Katie chastises herself as she struggles to wrangle wheels and pedals and tubular frame that seem to fight her like a living thing.

She heads out the door and to the sidewalk and fixes her helmet while I lock up behind us. I come down the stoop, she looks up at me and smiles.

Sunday, April 12, 2020

Things I Didn't Think About A Month Ago

The handkerchief I wear tied over the lower half of my face compresses my nose, flattening it out a little, and making it kind of tough to breathe nasally. I have to adjust the mask periodically if I talk, too, which makes me very self-conscious of how close my hands are to my face.

We walk down the widest street in our neighborhood, on sidewalks twice as big as any of the others, and easily keep the now regulation six feet between us and other folks out walking like us just before sunset.

"All sidewalks should be this big," I tell Katie, and she agrees.

Saturday, April 11, 2020

Tiki Drinks

We've had an orphan handle of spiced rum (a jaunty pirate with a devilish grin posing on the label) for literal years - we don't know where it came from or who it belonged to, and since nobody in this house particularly likes spiced rum, there it stayed, an orange-brown specter haunting our bar cart like an unwelcome guest.

But tonight, thanks to Katie's internet acumen and some pineapple juice, we're cracking it open - literally. The cap nearly requires a pair of pliers to get it off the bottle.

Somehow, though, in the marriage of fruit juices (orange, pineapple, lime) and syrups (grenadine), this low-rent liquor is turned into something tropical, something reminiscent of beaches and little umbrellas, a scent of vanilla on a warm summer breeze, a reminder that summer, the outdoors, something other than this apartment exists, and we drink the memory with gusto.

Friday, April 10, 2020

The Indoor LIfe

Thunder rumbles deep and long and close. "It's raining," Katie calls from the window.

I look up from my computer to see that she's made a massive understatement - a squall is in progress outside, visibility gone, streets running like rivers, trees whipping their heads back and forth to the push and pull of sideways rain.

I had no idea it was coming, and when, a few hours later, the sun comes out, I realize I had no idea it had gone.

Wednesday, April 8, 2020

Crisis Averted

An early morning bout with the NYS unemployment benefits website, along with a completely collapsed circadian rhythm, has me back in bed by 8:30 am, easily about to fall asleep.

I'm in my accustomed position on my right side, eyes closed and beginning to breathe deeply, when I hear, from down the hall, the rhythmic, distressed "mmrrr-aah-ah-ah-ah" of the cat yelling as she runs. She tears into the room, leaps upon the bed, runs up the bed to the crook of my arm and flops down with all the force she can muster.

Crisis averted, she begins to purr like a microwave cooking a casserole, and we both quickly fall asleep.

Occasional Gaps In The Clouds

We go out walking after 11:00 PM, to see the super pink moon, and because the streets are practically empty, so it's easier to stay away from folks.

And yet this man still approaches us before he seemingly catches himself, stopping a good ten feet away, and says, "I hate to ask this, but could you buy me something?"

Never mind that nothing for blocks is open, we both came out without wallets or cash in our pockets, so we tell him that and he stalks away, muttering to himself.

Periodically the thick cloud cover breaks and the moon peers through, huge and shining brilliant white, only to be quickly covered again, and we end sitting on the stoop, imagining the tops of the clouds, far above, radiant in silver pouring down.

Monday, April 6, 2020

Beneath The Mask

The older woman walking her two dogs toward us on the sidewalk notices us standing to one side, giving her right-of-way at appropriate social distance, but her expression is impossible to read beneath the surgical mask that everyone on the street seems to be sporting in one way or another these days.

"Is that an iPhone?" she asks as she approaches us, to Katie who is posting something as we wait for her to pass.

"Yes it is," Katie answers, looking up.

"Facial recognition doesn't work anymore," she says, and we can hear the smile in her voice.

A Glimpse Outside

There's a sound out the front window. "Scott, come in here," Katie calls.

It's 7:00 PM, so people are applauding for the health care workers - not on our block, but a block or two over, near enough to hear it. 

"The moon is up," she says, pointing, and we spend a moment or two looking at an almost full moon in a late afternoon sky until it passes behind a cloud.

Sunday, April 5, 2020

Just to Feel Something Different (the Gom Jabbar)

"And I'm posting that on the internet, unless you want it to use it for your four each day," Katie says, after I tell her I'm going to go put my hands in ice water. I assure her she's free to do what she wants.

Somehow the metal mixing bowl I fill up with water and ice cubes seems colder that if I were using a plastic bowl, though of course that's unlikely, and I take a few deep breaths, hit the timer, and plunge my right hand in up to the wrist.

Instantly I am in excruciating pain, that, while it originates in my hand, seems to radiate up my arm all the way to my core, and the top of my head feels like it's expanding, like my skull is swelling up like a balloon, and it takes all my concentration just to keep breathing and leave my hand in while the timer slowly, slowly ticks down.

Saturday, April 4, 2020

Alfred Hitchcock Presents

A robin has taken an immense and personal dislike to his reflection in the window of the new apartment building behind ours, and has been dive bombing himself, whacking into the window, and falling back only to repeat the process again, for hours now.

The sparrows are darting about in agitation while somewhere above us, a crow or a raven croaks and creaks and eggs the craziness on. 

A dove hunkers down on the downstairs neighbors' deck, giving us the side eye. A larger male comes up and starts chasing her around, hoping to get busy, and the robin dive bombs his own reflection again.

Friday, April 3, 2020

The Care And Feeding Of Your Body

The close quarters, the constant bad news, the worries about lost work, it can really get you up in your head, small stresses that turn into a sometimes overwhelming sense of isolation and malaise, so I'm grateful when Katie comes into the kitchen as I'm putting dishes away and lifts my shirt to hug me tight.

Her cool hands are on my skin, and she buries her face in my neck and inhales deeply. She breathes me in, and I breathe her in, too, the smell of her hair and her animal warmth that reminds me that I'm not just a brain perched on top of a meat machine that carts me around, not just a pair of eyes wired to a screen that pumps anxiety into my skull sixteen hours a day.

Then I feel her nails like little needles digging into my side, a tiny shock of pain, and she whispers in my ear with a quiet intensity, "If we don't eat those avocados tomorrow I am going to freak out."

Thursday, April 2, 2020

Escaping Confinement

We climb up the fire escape to the roof to bask in the sun like lizards on the black tar. The absence of walls and the expanse of blue sky and gray clouds smearing in the wind makes me a little drunk, and my heart buzzes in my chest while I stand watching tiny planes fly so high that they look like they'll never land again.

A cardinal sings in a tree behind our building, a warbling trill that ends with a "pew-pew-pew" like a laser gun in a science fiction movie, and Katie lies on a blanket, mirrored sunglasses covering her face.

A woman across the street on her roof jumps rope, and I can only see her the bouncing mop of her black hair and the rope as it loops over her again and again and again.

Wednesday, April 1, 2020

Boredom Sets In

Katie come back from the bathroom and flops in the chair.

“What’s your plan?” I ask.

“I have no plan,” she says wearily, “about anything.”

“Want to go to bed?” I ask