My tightly-knit cocoon of a home—my oasis of creativity and comfort—is unraveling. The cat and Zoom meetings have blown a big (metaphorical) hole through the middle of the house, and I feel like I’m falling through the floor while screaming desperately for a strong drink. This all happened on Friday, which was maybe the 454th day of Mapril during the lockdown of 2020.
Typically, for four hours a day, I work online for an educational/publishing company that helps students find and fix problems with their essays. These hours are focused and intense because I have to try really hard to pretend that I am a professional adult. This does not come naturally to me. A quiet house helps, so I work my hours in the morning when the cat is still sleeping.
However, Nate and Alex are now both here at the same time because Nate is working from home and Alex’s school is still closed and probably will be until the end of the year. Nate’s work prefers conference calls, while Alex’s teachers sometimes opt for Zoom meetings. While Nate is on a conference call, Alex’s Zoom meeting experiences technical difficulties, so I need to leave my post and help him fiddle with his computer. When it looks like it’s working, I have nanoseconds to get the heck out of Alex’s room before his teacher and his entire class see a close-up of my ratty pajamas and naked face. (So far, I think they’ve only seen me from behind, as I’m running away. Now that I think about it, I should really check out what the back of my pajamas looks like. If they’re anything like the sleeves, which are full of holes, I should be worried. Very worried.)
Meanwhile, Nate’s phone calls can sometimes be loud, and the cat likes it when Nate is loud. He thinks it’s party time. He thinks, “Nate wants to play. I just know it.” And, when the cat wants to play, he charges through the house like a freight train and crashes into walls and furniture. Then, he does this yodeling thing to get our attention. It sounds like this: Yow! Yow! Yow! Except it sounds more like a question—there’s an inflection on the end, like this: Yow!? Yow!? Yow!?
So, between preventing the cat from attending Nate’s finance meetings and playing “dodge the camera” during Alex’s Zoom sessions, I seriously contemplate violating lockdown orders by flying to Florida, climbing the gates of the Magic Kingdom, and setting off all of the fireworks for the “Happily Ever After” show.
When five-o’-clock rolled around on Friday, I pulled out a bottle of rosé, unscrewed the top, took a swig and announced, “I think we should escape. We’ve got to go AWOL.”
Nate scratched his head and said, “Well, we could take a drive.”
“I’m in,” I said.
We didn’t actually take our drive until Sunday morning, but by Sunday morning, we were ready. We flew down roads, past deserted malls and boarded up restaurants. Earlier, I thought maybe we should wear scarves or bandanas around our mouths and noses, just in case—like a family of bandits cruising through apocalyptic landscapes. However, there was no time to raid the hanky drawer. The open road was calling. I pressed my face against the window of the car, shouting, “Wow! Wow!” every time we passed just about anything.
“It has only been three weeks,” Nate said.
“I know. It doesn’t take much for me to lose it,” I replied.
We were on our way to Chuckanut Drive. We were there last year, when we could get out of our car and go to the park near the beach. We saw the most magnificent purple starfish. That wouldn’t happen this time. This time, we’d count ourselves lucky to catch a glimpse of the ocean from a turnout. We would get out of the car and breathe in deeply, which is something I also miss. Lately, I’ve been holding my breath every time I go grocery shopping. I can’t wait until I can breathe and shop at the same time.
Just a few miles away from Chuckanut, I asked Nate and Alex what they missed most.
“Going to movies,” Nate said.
“Being able to touch things,” Alex said.
“Do you ever just want to run up to a stranger, hug them tightly, and smell their hair?” I asked.
“No,” Nate said. “Would you do that?”
“No. I just thought I’d ask. Also, I miss the way that banks smell.”
Up ahead, we were reaching the start of the drive, where just past the ferns and mossy trees, we could stop at pullouts and breathe in the fresh air. There were no safe trails that led to the beach, but the mixture of the smells of pine and ocean from the main road above were all that we needed. And, I’m grateful that we stepped out. Tonight, maybe I won’t dream of walking through malls or eating in restaurants. Instead, I’ll dream of the starfish I miss seeing—and hope that they don’t start yodeling like a cat-on-the-fritz during a Zoom meeting.
Your Turn: Have you been able to go for a drive or a walk? What did you see?