But No Queen Comes

Wednesday, March 18th

There’s a passage in Rilla of Inglesidewhere Rilla’s companion, Mrs. Oliver, dreams about the upcoming Battle of Verdun. In the dream, a French soldier staggers up the veranda to where she stands. They shall not pass, he insists, over the peal of thunder and lashing rain.

Rilla tries to take heart in the soldier’s words, but Ms. Oliver knows that the man’s bloodied uniform and hollow desperation are the real message. Many men are about to die.

God, what a bleak thought, am I right? But that’s what came to mind on Monday and Tuesday and again today as the case number rose and rose and the light bled out of the city, the vibrant, ugly, boisterous, fuck you let’s have another city.

The restaurant below us, the warmly lit, lovely little Italian restaurant that we referred to, grandly but not entirely inaccurately, as our living room, is on a skeleton crew — a few cooks and the manager. Last night I walked by on my way home from picking up the kids and the lights were out and the manager was standing in the shadows behind the bar. A sign on the door said they were offering drinks as well as takeout and Brady got a boulevardier and brought it up in a paper cup. They were just trying to survive, the manager told him. This restaurant that had directly employed so many and indirectly employed so many more. (The garbage trucks that came at 630 every morning, to the delight of my older son, who watched them intently through our bedroom window, haven’t been back all week). What will become of it?

I think, too, of the wonderful women at our daycare, and how much our sons love them and the space they’ve created — and my heart twists — and I think, but eventually, we’ll have to find some other solution and how will we pay for both — but we’ve got to, or there could be no daycare to come back to.

Friday, March 20th

One nation, under Zoom.

No, what a privileged thing to say. How millennial. It’s not true but it feels like it. The corporate surveillance state. One of the directors warns us to keep our Slack circles turquoise — or else. If you don’t know what that means, rest assured, it’s nearly meaningless. Work feels meaningless even as it piles up and up. Meeting after meeting after meeting, potted plants and fake Miami Vice backgrounds. They shall not pass. People are dying and I’m adjusting the sizes of bubbles in Keynote.

We went to Vermont last night. That afternoon, I started to feel … funny. Like my throat had snuck into my mouth while simultaneously squeezing at my chest. This is it, I thought, but it was only anxiety.

It feels better, being in Vermont, but also harder, in that childcare is now fully our responsibility but so is work and neither of us are what you’d call night owls. If you haven’t met my friend privilege, she’s adjusting her glasses at the bar.

There are now 7800 confirmed cases in New York. 30,000 have been tested. Does that mean the true rate is 25%? Probably not but…

The beautiful weather couldn’t have come at a worse time. (Says sheepishly, thinking of last Saturday’s steak frites.)

Saturday, March 21st

And now it’s another Saturday in another state and the news is worse but also further away. Vermont is naturally more socially distant though it’s also older and the nearest major hospital ran out of tests Friday and there wasn’t any toilet paper at the Walmart where we went to buy new things to put the baby in. It might be a pandemic but the baby still needs a chair.

I went for a run with him around noon, sunny and blustery, four miles that felt uphill both ways. I’ll be in great shape when this over, I thought, and then I felt bad, just as I had yesterday when I was talking to some friends on a Google hangout and said that maybe this would be the catalyst for me to do something different. But then again, why not at least try to make lemonade?

Sunday, March 22nd

And now it’s Sunday night, tomorrow the first full week of this new new life. There isn’t a point to planning past a few days, which is good, because I can’t. I can think ahead in soft-lit images, a planned trip to the Vineyard, weathered shingle and outdoor showers and beach plums like agates on their smooth ends.

The baby doesn’t like the pack n play. He sleeps beside me. Last night I gave him too much hamburger and he howled and howled his face hot slippery on my neck. 

Tuesday, March 23rd

And it’s Tuesday night and the news is slipping away, for better or worse. No one is sick; we are adjusting. The adjustment curve’s more of a stepped line. We’re short on office space, long on horses and great bowls of fields and a baby calf called Luna, shaggy black with the dearest little horns. Yesterday it snowed: pellets at first and then great fat flakes. By evening, there was enough for snowballs, snowmen. Perry’s first snow as a biped. He romped about, overjoyed, until he dug his hands in deep and realized they were cold. Brady and I went on a walk tonight after the kids were down and the stars looked spitpolished in the royal sky. Venus a particularly glittering solitaire. Inside, the darkness is absolute, the quiet velvety apart from the creak of a floorboard. 

Saturday, March 28th

Whattaweek.

What.

A.

Week.

This working in shifts thing. We are lucky to be able to do it — but for how long? My coworkers who don’t have children are working more than ever. I could get more done if not for these goddamn meetings, I think — but then again, it’s easier to talk while half-watching two children then it is to think. My ability to think comes in thin spurts that evaporate almost instantly. I contemplate returning to fiction in only the vaguest terms. The stories I’ve been living with for years are locked up now, or else they’ve escaped entirely. And what of it? They matter more than defining customer journeys for products no one needs, but only to me. 

The sky here is so blue. A true robin’s egg blue above the parchment-white birches, the spidery sumac with their rusty bouquets. The fields the neighor’s goats chomped clean this summer are already glowing a gentle green. Perry and I hunt for excavators and tractors. We visit the horses again and again. Last night, we stopped at the little pond just before our house and watched as Mr. and Mrs. Mallard jetted along on their post-prandial, acting much as pregnant human couples do, Mr puffed with pride and on the watch, giving Mrs a respectful berth, both of them bobbing peaceably. Perry whooped, watching them go. Neither of us wanted to leave. 

I wouldn’t have thought that a side effect of an apocalypse would be an interest in birds. But why not?  They are out in force here, the red breasted robins and house finches, the gold finches and tufted titmice. The occasional solitary hawk. The sparrows have begun to come in, and the geese as well. There is something very soothing and hypnotic about watching them stop by the bird feeders that hang out the kitchen window. And the peepers! Last summer, heavily pregnant, I missed them entirely, but yesterday they were there at the pond, cheering amongst the bulrushes. The picture of “Venice” with clean canals might have been fake but the gist is about right. (I think too, of the jungle that grew over Chernobyl. There are plenty of upsides to our own retreat. 

So anyways. I think I’m going to go read some Wallace Stevens poems about spring. The spittle of cows threading the wind sounds about right. But no queen comes / In slipper green.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s