I don’t know what to say. But I want to say it. Maybe we need poetry. Or a song. I can’t put my finger on it because of the desperation of 2020.
My fingers type harder than usual. More of a thump or a pound instead of a clickety. My sense of touch has suffered. I fear my finger prints have grown rough and rigid without the usual wearing down of warmth and hugs. My joints and skin are unforgiving. My knees and hips tire of sitting. I swallowed the key to my locked jaw.
My ears hear in a fog. I would say underwater but I like that sound. This is an annoying sound -the sound my brain makes when I remember something I forgot but didn’t want to remember. An ugh combined with a moan and a whirring clicking unsteady fan on repeat. Repeat. Repeat.
My breathing gets stuck. The wheeze comes at night, so I slip into Dolly’s room and get her inhaler off the nightstand. Tiptoe into the hallway so she doesn’t hear me cough. Breathe in the barely there taste of albuterol. Dolly wakes with a slight scream or cry. “You can’t breathe. You ok? Mama. Mama.” And a whimper. I brush her hair off her forehead and smooth all the baby hairs back into her blonde mane. She falls back asleep and I am unsure if she was ever really awake.
My view is myopic. Staring at a computer screen of adorably squirmy children, reading aloud and asking them to share their roses and thorns. I hear over and over. My rose is that I can see my friends and go to school. My thorn is that I can’t play at recess and I can’t just talk to my friends.” The individual children share the same individual message. Stuck in their houses. Can’t play with my friends. Tired of computer. They talk about their feet falling asleep. We get up and wiggle. The delays are formidable. Find a mute button. Push it an uneven number of times until magically, tragically the child is still on mute. “Ms. Rodi, Ms. Rodi, you froze.” A new language of freeze, unmute, chatbox. Google slides are not playground slides. Google classroom is not a home away from home. Google drive is not driven. It is clogged and not hooked up to my GPS. Google meets are disjointed- when the whole point of a meeting is to join together. Little cuckoo birds pop out and make their clatter. As the listener wonders which window opened. Where did the loud little bird fly to? Giving up. A spasmodic divided screen is no place for a community of children. And it is all we have.
The brown Ford has a limiting view, also. One dimensional. I learn to find the switch for the windshield wipers that open out and in. My old wipers always swayed together. Left, right. Left, right. The Ford wipers are two arms waving independently. The windshield itself leans into me. Aerodynamic for wind, but inducing claustrophobic wonderings of heads being smooshed into the flannel putty ceiling. The Subaru windshield and sunroof opened to the sky. The Ford weighs heavy. Something catches my eye. A puffy cloud back lit pink and I remember to look out and up. Ignore the potholes and dash camera. Look at the world, not the interior of a sedan. The good is out there. Not in here.
Online teaching and Ford interiors are not the crux of the problem. The separations, the density, are symptoms of the forlorn. The 2020ness of it all.
As Michelle said, “It is what it is.”
Melania cut the trees down at the White House. She ruined the Rose Garden. Unfucking believable.
A policeman shot Jacob Blake in Kenosha, Wisconsin in front of his children. You know, one of his boys was celebrating his birthday. How do you think they should process this trauma every year on their brother’s birthday? Police are not our safety net. Not in the South. Not in the North. Not in the West. Not at UC Santa Clara as they harassed and intimidated Danielle Fuentes Morgan’s (a professor) brother for being black. No where is safe.
Trump’s country is virtual. I can’t tell what is real and what is the next season of the Apprentice. I hate the word virtual. As a kid, adults used the word virtually to mean nothing, a guess, a practicality- such as “Taxis are virtually nonexistent in this neighborhood.” And now the word is everywhere. Virtual reality is in essence just words. Smoke and mirrors. My ability to touch others is thwarted by a pandemic and my ability to touch my own reality, my government, my community is thwarted by the fakeness of it all. Trump or Republicans have swiped truth like the greedy character on Dora the Explorer. “Swiper, no swiping.” But Trump, McConnell, Graham, Lee do not listen.
The post office is being dismantled. What in the ever loving world? Who saw this coming? Those adorable blue boxes, illustrated postage stamps with their sweet perforated edges, mail carriers in chambray like uniforms with the official patch of the Uniter States Postal Service, one of Mr. Rogers helpers, the iconic mail car stopping and starting to visit each house no matter the weather. What sweetness can our president destroy next? I thought we had protections from this type of authoritarian nonsense and crimes. Were those checks and balances virtual? Real? True? Fake?
And California is on fire -close to Tucky. He is safe. He can ride out into the ocean and sit on his surf board and wait- bobbing with his sea lions. Fire ransacking wild flowers, Victorian houses, statuesque redwoods, scholarly universities. Ashes snowing from an orange sky. Be careful, Shattuck.
BeBe is coming home from Athens, Georgia. UGA Bulldogs are not good at quarantines. In the land of football, only one thing is sacred. I miss her . I need her. I am mad that her world did not prioritize her health and safety. Maybe her mama should have said “don’t go!” But she is twenty. Her wisdom had her check the landscape for safety and it is time to return. The girl who has, in the past, thrived on straight lines, takes a fork in the road.
George leaves for Maine any second. A hot minute. A microsecond. Faster than the speed of light. Without celebration. Without hoopla. Without his mama’s usual events and field trips. He quarantines stricter than ever to transition safely into a new community of a small number of college kids and forest lovers on an island. Acadia National Forest is his back yard. Tree huggers paradise. I’m jealous. Envious that a school, trees, and salt water stole his heart. I once carried that heart in my chest pocket buttoned up safely.
Dolly and I wait for the bathroom renovation to be completed. Inconvenienced. She loves her schedule and routine. I love my hot water escape. They promised this week, again. She grows up and away from me. Not on purpose, I don’t think. It is just her job. Well, that and scooping ice cream. We have some anxieties in common. -Did I say the wrong thing? Did my comment come off too intrusive? Oh My God, I messed up so bad (when the littlest thing happens). This is what I passed on? Genes. Facial structure. Worry warts. Mannerisms. Alike and opposing. Too much the same to see it. There are no mini me’s. She is she and I am me. Independent, stubborn, sensitive, principled. reactive. She is a junior in high school. Juniors are closer to moving on than staying. The blur is beginning. She drives my dad’s car, an old white Chevy truck. Not old enough to call vintage but still old enough to b e cool. I love driving that car. The windshield is almost perpendicular to the dash- a movie screen now showing the beauty of the roads and sky.
Addy protects her time and space. Inviting us in for frequent showers in her bathroom. Ushering out our loud noises and volcanic messes. She is creating her own home. Her own family. She will always be locked to us, but her nest is her own. Her work is intense now that she is a manager. Her eating disorder recovery is a constant second and third shift- with no pay. The benefits are survival and a future. My place in her recovery feels smaller and smaller. Transitions. Growth.
Mim is recovering from online middle school. Each day a marathon of meets and zooms as she nods and agrees. Never missing a beat. Never skipping a response or a thumbs up. The school day ends and her energy is depleted. We all try to rally. The meltdowns win. Only to be replaced by the apologies and pattings.
I did find a new song that I love. I’m not clear on what pharmakon is. I love the melody and the light images. I need to leave myself to find relief. Let a song, a cumulus cloud, or a stream take me away.
I drop off these words and leave these feelings here in the carpool line of the forlorn. No more marryanating and ruminating in my brain. Thank you very much. This is the proof that I exist. That I am trying to live in 2020.