Sunday, May 24th
A load of laundry strewn across the guest bed, including all the winter socks I’d meant to bring with us.
Dishes in the dishwasher, cleaned March 19th but mildewed by May 22.
The pork chops we’d planned to have for dinner stuffed pell mell into the freezer.
The parchment ponytails of the English ivy on the mantel and husks of the lemon fig and the begonia with its earthworm-like stems—the plant whose death I’d been half hoping for for three years, so I could reclaim its pot. Well, I’m drowning in pots now.
It’s facile and completely inappropriate but all these masks, the de rigeurness of them—even for the children!, the variations in how they are worn, remind me of Watchmen. I know—that was not the point of those masks. But those were for protection too.
I don’t have a good mask yet. I hadn’t worn one more than a handful of times before yesterday.
I read Atonement, The Sparsholt Affair, Never Let You Go. Wartime novels or novels with horror at their core—and yet, there are moments of normalcy, even beauty. It’s a relief to realize that few things are truly unremitting.
Saturday, May 30th
I have too many sentimental tee shirts. I’m not sentimental about anything but the shirts from old teams, races, concerts. Shawmut Acquatic Club. The Baltimore Marathon. The White Stripes. An old Prairie Home Companion shirt of my father’s, a faux advertisement for Powdermilk Biscuits. (Has your family tried em?)
New York is the trees that grow on its sidewalks. Great big london planes and honeylocusts whose taproots have this city good and cinched. People run, determinedly, with their masks mostly in place.
The sidewalks are full by nine; it might as well be Savannah at the bar across the street.
There is humming all around. My son snores. His brother makes the drone of the excavator. The helicopters whir above.
Friday night was the first night of protests in Brooklyn. Hundreds of protesters marched by our apartment as we were putting the kids to bed. My husband finished first; I heard him leaning out the open window to cheer. Later that night, a van would burn outside the park; all through the night, hundreds would be arrested. I didn’t see that, or hear it. I only heard cheers. In the morning, the park was its Saturday self. The dogs loped and scuffed in the dust of the great lawn; my son filled the stone chimney of the redoubt with firewood. People queued up to buy snap peas and rhubarb and peonies. On Twitter, you’d think every block had been torched. Even if they had, people would still come out the next morning, get their $5 coffee, wait for the peonies.
Tuesday, June 3rd
The protest started at Foley Park, by the courthouse, and headed down broadway, past zucotti park and the bull, before edging back past Whitehall and along the old painted brick facades of the seaport. We called for Breonna Taylor, for David McAtee, for Ahmaud Arbery. Over and over we called for George Floyd. We cheered for the medical staffers clustered outside Trinity Church. The staffers blew kisses, wiped their eyes. Someone lit a joint. A pod of Asian teens in crop tips jumped on top of a phone booth, and then a street lamp. Every so often, we’d pause and kneel in silence. My knees creaked. I didn’t know which was the right arm to raise. The woman beside me had neon braids and glitter under her eyes and a poster that said “Witches for Justice.” She knelt easily, sprang up like a cat. I wanted to know without asking what kind of magic she practiced, because I could feel it.
Maybe the magic was rage.
Wednesday, June 4th
Curfew tonight. The sky is bruise colored from the helicopters. The sky hums, the sidewalks are quiet.
The first citywide curfew in 70 years. But I’m more on edge about the baby crying, the stand up wailing kind, and about my having broken the shower handle again. More on edge about the simmering sky. It does feel like Watchmen more than ever, even though more than ever I have qualms about saying so.
In retreat, I read Pilgrim at Tinker Creek. It reminds me of crouching over the duck pond, searching for dinosaurs. I feel rife with envy. To be a transparent eyeball taking in the new new of a microscape. To know it by ever more microscopic layers. Can I do that — not the writing, but the knowing — in our new old home?
I think about how the helicopters are the lawn mowers of the city.
The protest we went to was sprawling and peaceful. Not peaceful, “non-violent,” the organizer corrected himself, after being told to by a fellow organizer, a fat white girl carrying nylon rope and a giant orange bucket.
I think about how easy I find cheering for runners in the marathon, versus the sense of stymied awe at the marchers who would start a call and response out of nowhere.
I think, my god, the helicopters are loud tonight.
Friday, June 6th
The remains of the night are cardboard signs and boarded up storefronts and pastel loops of graffiti. Martin Luther King and Audre Lorde. BLM. King Baby. Your silence will not protect you. Tu lucha es mi lucha.
(I liked that one enough to scrawl it on my own sign.)
On Instagram, I watch Danielle Henderson talk about the anger she feels from seeing the stories of her white friends, wherein photos of protests and messages of solidarity and links to bail relief funds are interspersed with Allison Roman recipes and at-home face masks. Because they needed a break.
I wince. I pause the video. Play it again. For just a moment, I think I understand. Privilege isn’t needing the break — privilege is being able to take it. Privilege is protesting without (as opposed to despite) fear of judicial consequences, and then browsing the Roller Rabbit bedding sale on the subway home. Privilege is flitting between intensity and banality. If you’re on the front lines, war is unremitting.
Saturday, June 7th
I run through the woods of Prospect Park, listening to a decade-old playlist of alt rock from the mid-nineties through the mid-aughts. The Feelies, Harvey Danger, OutKast, Pearl Jam, Santigold. Inspired by the wellspring of hardbodies, I wear only a sports bra, ancient under armor shorts, and my raver gaiter, which has a galactic pattern and a handy pull-string. The woods are mostly empty; whenever i see someone coming, I pull the gaiter up over my nose. It feels like a greeting, the new Vermont wave. Once, I forget, let my mind drift. It’s the ivy’s fault: there’s a notch in the path where it tumbles and spreads in such abundance that I’m apt to think I’m at the bottom of a well. An older woman with a big hound dog shouts into the well. I’m blocking the whole path, I’ve got my whole face out.
It’s a narrow path to begin with; if anything’s blocking it, it’s the ivy — but she has a point. I do have my whole face out. I run away listening to L.E.S. Artists. What am I here for /
I left my home to disappear is all.
The remains of past runs are laid thick about Brooklyn. Come in, the water’s cool, they say. Drink the chlorophyll, spot the fake fairies, cast a towering shadow over the little beach and the floating marina. But it is no longer —acceptable? Possible? — okay? — to dwell in them.
Back home, I take Perry to the park. The grass is shaggy. Clover grows in thick patches on the passive lawns. The trash cans fill up more quickly than usual, or they’re emptied less often. Two men spar in the shadow of the monument. Two women do burpees, too many to count.
There’s a steel guitarist at the redoubt where Perry likes to build “fires.” The logs are still piled up in the fireplace where he left them. The guitarist plays old blues hymns, the American Songbook. Peace Like a River. Swing Low, Sweet Chariot. I turn away and let the notes wash over me. Perry keeps hauling logs, but he stops every once in a while to really listen. The sun bounds off the guitar. An old man named Harry shuffles into the redoubt, sits on the banquet exactly six feet from the guitarist. I know his name is Harry because the guitarist calls out, “Hey Harry.” He keeps playing while they talk about tires.
The guitarist is always looking for places to play where he won’t bother anyone. He can’t play in his apartment, not for long anyhow, or his son will crawl over and try to swallow the pick, zipline on the frets.
You’re not bothering me, I say, but only in my head. Harry says it aloud. You play like that, man, that’s not going to bother anyone. Not like them drums over the hill.
It’s true, if I listen, I can make out a distant, persistent drumbeat, like a pulse.
The drumming doesn’t bother me either — perhaps it’s just the jolt I need to cut through the haze of three near-sleepless nights — but I stay where I am.