Snapshot: Day 156

My daughter’s school’s empty playground August 14th, 2020

It’s cloudy. We haven’t had much cloudiness recently, lots of hot sun. All around town, there are new trees planted this spring lining the streets. These trees and others are parched. The trees have moved through all the yellow of spring into the deep, dark green that will hold until autumn (soon) tugs at them and new colors emerge, then fall, then disappear. We might get a little bit of rain today, but the forecast is mostly clouds. To restate what should be obvious by our one hundred-and-fifty-sixth day in quarantine, the weather is a big deal. When the only real “place” to go other than your own house is outside, the ability or inability to enjoy being outside factors directly upon each and every day.

Other recent summers, when I’ve struggled with the heat (a real post-menopause development, because womanhood doesn’t end its ability to suck a little bit with menopause), I’ve powered through walking say, for an iced tea or to do errands, because cool places provided respite in the middle. If it was too hot to enjoy a frozen yogurt outside, I could sit in the air-conditioned shop and read Twitter and cool off. I can’t do that now. Much as I enjoyed long, aimless walks that carved odd shapes around my neighborhood during the spring as opposed to the walks that transported me to destinations or toward errands, I can’t bring myself to them in humid, sticky, heatwave summer. Because quarantine has shifted from long to infinite, I realize that on days like today — cloudy, not so hot — I’ll begin to reclaim my aimless walks. My ears were bothered by earbuds and I haven’t had to use them so much recently, including when my walking companion of a second kid was living with us for two months. I am contemplating dorky looking headphones for my walks. Vanity has stopped me. I’ll be fifty-seven tomorrow on Day 157, so maybe I can let vanity go this year.

Two notes on vanity and birthday: one, I haven’t had a haircut or like most people, worn jeans since March; two, I haven’t begun to think about what I hope for from this year, a ritual I love to do on my birthday and usually pre-game it with lots of forethought.

If I were to force myself into forethought, here’s the theme: . Here’s more: I have to . The spaces I’m in, which I guess to say is either a house or outside, are limited and so my sights are set on the idea of staying small, as in being present right here to myself and the people in my immediate orbit, with whom I cohabit and whose family we collectively inhabit.

I miss my friends and I don’t know how to reliably access them. In fact, I’m unable. I need more people. All efforts to figure out how to consistently connect have been imperfect at best. Over and over, I write of a melancholy longing to have people back more readily, like how hard it is to smile over masks at the lovely people who hand me iced tea through the pickup window, because I am so happy to see them or ditto my friends on the sidewalk awaiting their orders, because no one can hug or even high-five and no one can lean in to whisper whatever thing must be relayed more intimately than a sidewalk allows.

I’ve been creating essays I call mini maps, which are sometimes of small spaces but leap out over time and ideas and memories. Yesterday I wrote about walking with one of my best friends, Michael, on our shared street (I live near one end; he lives near the other end). We were close, so we had our masks on. I wrote, .

Part of the heart of what’s happening is so gigantic and engulfing, like destroying the postal service, which is to say taking a lead pipe to democracy (voting by mail). To watch the mob, because what else is a dictator than a successful thug, prevail (fingers crossed, a zillion calls and emails to protest this being inevitable) is simply terrifying. I contract much smaller than my neighborhood. I pretty much find it hard to leave the house when I think about it. Yesterday, I sent emails. Like everything else I’ve done since Trump was elected, it felt like trying to put one of those tiny, round spot band-aids I don’t think they even make any longer because they were so stupid on a mortal wound.

The impossibly big — our country under attack, with layers of crisis upon more layers, some old, some newer — and the impossibly small — seventh grade from home with the ability to physically share space with maybe just one friend indoors, because how do we safely get more — all of this is too much all day every single day. Vice grip to us writ large, vice grip writ tiny, here, me, more tween than I ever imagined, afraid to go anywhere without me, this is the snapshot of Day 156.

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Sarah Buttenwieser

Writer, brainstormer, networker — follow me on Twitter @standshadows