Covid Quarantine: March-June 2020

I expected to enlarge my world March 2020, attending a conference, discovering Wisconsin, and visiting relatives. Instead, my world grew smaller in the minutia of coordinating quarantine, navigating a pandemic, and fighting stagnation. When I became ill with flu-like symptoms, the world was normal—the construction of a major roadway through town, work schedules, and meeting and greetings of family. Nobody wore masks. I only met doctor with flu-like symptoms because of the virus in the headlines. My fear motivated me to be cautious of a disease spreading like the rainfall of brown needles below pine trees just beyond my patio. I was told not to worry because Little Rock, Arkansas is not an international transportation hub and our first case didn't come until the next day. Strep, flu tests, and upper respiratory panel sent off negative. For four weeks and two illnesses, I remained in quarantine. I was too ill to do anything, but according to local officials I wasn't ill enough to warrant breaking quarantine to be tested. It was safer preventing me infecting others or preventing someone else infecting me. My pets, cat Ricochet, and parakeets, Widget and Whimsy, were my only companions, so, for me keeping everyone safe was easy. I didn't leave the house, besides a couple of times, for a few minutes, stepping out in my patio garden lush with new growth and colorful pansies and removing bags of trash. I didn't touch the outside of my door, giving friends, putting themselves at risk with my needs, time to walk away before pulling supplies in. I saw no faces—masked or not, for almost every minute of a month. My birthday passed without note. I wasn't well. My life boiled down to mundanities. Despite depression and being introvert, I socialize, run errands for myself and my family of pets, and see doctors and therapist. Those lifelines were sharply cut. The only way I survived was through kind friends. Within my four walls extraordinarily little was done. I was often content to just lie down, staring up at my smooth cream ceiling staccatoed by the shadow of my fan blades. I journaled of pet interactions; fighting with my landlord over the ac which ended up 6 ½ weeks out; grief of my lost opportunity to travel; and the rain. The world wasn't well. The New York Times headlines told me all I needed to know about the world. Social media also told me what people were doing individually—working from home, coming up with a variety of ways to make masks, businesses shutting down with many jobs lost, people spitefully coughing on others to get ahead, and a growing online way of life for everyone—from museum exhibit to workshop video. The pandemic and weather eventually put me in a real funk, and I wondered what my mundane, monotonous notes contributed to people. It is easy to forget the global pandemic of such disasters as the pandemic. I thought about how even I, a thousand miles and without family or friend connection, couldn't imagine a pain greater than that which wrenched my heart or imagine the pain of those families there that day the Towers fell in New York City. So many lives lost or affected. As the headlines bolded New York's pandemic death toll from the pandemic as surpassing those in the World Trade Center, I wondered why I didn't feel about this greater disaster as I still do about the day the lives of those in World Trade Centers, Pentagon, and a Pennsylvania The pandemic was more than within my four walls. It was millions of people around the world touched in ways similarly and differently. People in hospitals were cut off from loved ones for fear of infection. People worried in lines over test results. Millions of people in the US alone lost their jobs and wondered how they would pay electric, water, grocery bills. Battles were fought in government agencies and among government representatives. Supplies like bathroom tissue ran short. The creative made masks and patterns for masks. Gatherings and vacations were canceled, enclosing or separating families and friends to the same four metaphorical walls as mine. People were bored. They were angry. They were anxious. They also looked forward to a future when all this is behind us. I was and did too. I hope writers also document people making the best of a bad situation by celebrating in parades; the pedagogical community overcoming obstacles to continue education; beautiful sunsets and sunrises created by lower emissions; laughter over the unending board games, movie marathons, and, yes, the hunt for toilet paper; and how people rallied not just for themselves but for those around them. I still wear my mask and practice social distancing. I still play with pets and tend my garden. I have picked up work on my portfolio defense for the fall—my graduating semester, and I am revising an independent study I hope to publish. All these things I write in and about are groundwork on which to build the rest of my writing and global life.

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Mike Lyles

Author of “The Drive-Thru is Not Always Faste...

Staresville, United States