Dearest Adam, dearest Sewanee Review,
In the past few days I have ordered—two pounds of fresh garlic, various shelf-stable milks and creams from the eighties, Joe Peach Tea, pretty bouillon paste, Happy Endings All-Purpose Dry Rub, PG Tips tea bags, College Inn chicken broth (because whatever with the bouillon, I am a College Inn girl at heart) dehydrated spinach, refried beans—so terrifically many refried beans— Hibiclens, Kinder eggs for bribing my child, elderberry (I don’t care if doesn’t work, I like the way it tastes), and Dave’s Killer Whole Grain Bread (like new). In the past few hours, I’ve been told that, because of high demand, the College Inn is unavailable, but the bouillon is valiantly on its way.
I am lucky there are small farms near me, whose chickens do not have to practice social distancing, who will continue to lay eggs. I am grateful for the local farmer who texts me when there are new bunches of leafy greens.
I am lucky that I can work from home. I wish I could just play all day with my five-year old child, but the work I have is not really put-offable. Of course if this gets very bad, as so many smart people say that it will, then my work won’t matter. What will matter more, as it always should, is protecting one another from a somewhat-avoidable end.
I am staying inside because I think those of us who aren’t on the front lines should all stay inside. I am staying inside because there are people for whom we should stay inside. I am contributing to outlets that help those people. For my friend who told me she was gaining too much weight, I am gaining more.
I am grateful for my five-year-old child who snapped, as I reached for a nibble of her elderberry, “Mommy we can’t share food during coronavirus.” I feel wretched that I told her I would leave the office if she didn’t stop talking. I am grateful for my husband, who reminded me that she was five, and who reminded her gently that mommy still had to work, as I deplorably continued to do so.
I felt shocked by the thirty insane seconds during which I was grateful my physician father had passed away, because I know he would have not stopped making rounds in the hospital, no matter how much I implored him. Because my fear (about literally everything) is selfishly dearer to me than anything else. It is something I feel I need to stock in spades.
In the last few days before I totally stayed inside, I bought a big, ugly freezer from Wal-Mart. I am still thinking about how, on my way out the door, a woman checking receipts was affronted by my staying so far away, by my giving my reason for doing so. In the parking lot, a man offered to help me load my items and I said no and he kept approaching and I said no again and he still kept coming. And I said no again, loudly, and he looked at me like he was going to kill me. I am pissed that I felt the need to tell him why. I am pissed that I was scared.
I am unsure how I feel that I can’t handle death. That I can’t accept it. A lot of people I loved have died, and I am still not over it. When people say that, so far, this virus has killed fewer people than the flu, even though we haven’t yet seen the breadth of it, I think that any of those deaths, those that we can help prevent with some rather simple hygiene and distance, are absolutely devastating. People say one more death; this state or that is up only one death from yesterday. One death only. When I hear that, I go over that death in my mind. I imagine the social distancing at the funeral of the woman’s husband. I imagine her black-death screaming in the night. We importantly discuss how many unknown cases we should estimate from one positive case. I go over all the grievers we can estimate per each avoidable death.
I feel stupid that, besides donating, I hope that my thinking about each new death is somehow an airborne, intangible comfort to the grievers for whom only one death has broken. I feel stupid, but at the same time I know it would have helped me. There’s something acutely shattering about the notion that the people you love will be forgotten, by the universe, by me. By forgetting the precise shape of my father’s eyes, the precise color. I am lucky I can look inside my daughter’s and remember his intense and shimmering blue.
I wish I wasn’t still sad about the College Inn. I wanted it so that I could make the stracciatella my mother used to make me, when I was sick or sad or just after my father died. It doesn’t taste the same with the pretty bouillon.