I am readi... ">

On quarantine

Posted by Nick Jones May 22, 2020


I am reading. I am looking onto the page. I am looking through the page. My eyes go fuzzy and now I'm listening to the music in my headphones. Behind me, school is happening. My wife is reading the text of a math problem to my daughter, who is also looking through the page and whose eyes are going fuzzy. We are in Queens and it is May, but we could be anywhere at any time. The hustle of living in New York City is gone and has been replaced with (nothing? something else?) I don't know. It's very strange.

We take a walk. We end up walking through the big cemetery in Kew Gardens because surely there won't be many people there. My breath fogs up my glasses as it pushes out of my lungs and through my mask. I think about every breath. I read the headstones. I try to imagine the lives all these strangers had, living in New York City like me—in their own weird timeline. Maybe it was the war, or the second war. The Triangle Shirtwaist factory fire, or the flu. A job loss, a dead spouse. I'm sure they counted every breath, paced up and down hospital halls, drove slowly past parks, playgrounds and restaurants. Whatever. Bad and strange things happened in their lives and now they're dead and here they are in Queens for eternity.

The sky is brilliant blue. I think to myself the planets and the solar system don't know what's happening to us. I think that kind of thing a lot, that we're just bigger microbes on a bigger petrie dish. We ebb and flow like a tide, a blue green mat of humanity. We climb up the walls of canyons and spread across the floors of valleys. The tide comes in and goes out. The tide comes in and goes out.

We find a bakery that's open. We buy a peach pie and eat slices of it at 10:10 am on a Friday because there are no rules at all anymore, not really. Or there are rules but no one could be blamed for breaking most of them. People walk their dogs in the cemetery, they walk two abreast in the roadway. They're desperate to get out, they can sense the tide coming in and going out maybe. The place they had dinner on their thirtieth anniversary is closed forever now, they see, or the construction project that blocked their view for months is shuttered now and maybe cancelled. The tide is going out.

It's always hard to understand the purpose of sleep, but especially now. I'm never tired, but I'm always exhausted and fall asleep almost as soon as my head hits the pillow. My cells are dividing and my hair grows but I imagine it's slowing down. I think how old my parents were when I was born, and how old they were when they died, and I can only assume that if my cells are dividing and my hair is growing that by now they're slowing at forty-one. I can't be sure. The tide is going out. I'm asleep and the tide is going out but there are tide pools. There are spiny things and wet, transparent leaves in the pools. The wind blows and buffets my ears and blows ripples into the pools. I look up from the mud flats and I see Manhattan in the distance at the center of the petrie dish. I'm dreaming and my brother is saying something to me, he's holding two things out to me (to choose? to compare the two? I don't know). He never visited Manhattan.

In the morning I lay and look into my phone. It is a Day Of The Week but which one, I don't know. I am reading. I am looking onto the page. I am looking through the page. My eyes go fuzzy and now I'm listening to the music in my headphones.