She opened her eyes and shot up. She’d been preparing for weeks…months…it might as well have been years, for all she could tell. Time was hard to fathom still at her age. Each week felt like a lifetime. Waiting for Christmas day felt like centuries. But waiting for today, this was worth it.
Every morning when Ethan wakes up, he brushes his teeth, washes his face, and puts on the clothes his mom laid out for him four hours earlier. Then he goes out to the kitchen, grabs whatever box of cereal is on the counter and pours it into a bowl with some milk, if there is any. Carefully closing and locking the door behind him with a key he keeps on a bright yellow lanyard in his backpack, he heads down four flights of stairs to the street below.
The cranky purr of MTA buses and honking horns greet him, clouds of exhaust hanging in the air. He greets it all back with a smile. Then he starts his seven block walk to school, giving a polite wave to the crossing guard who makes sure he gets across the intersection safely.
About halfway there, he says good morning to a man who has set up house with a handful of discarded cardboard boxes, hoping to brighten his day. His mom taught him that you never know what someone is going through, and sometimes you get to be the sunshine — like he is for her, she always says.
My thoughts are jumbled. They never seem to come out clean, in a straight line. Is that how they’re supposed to go? I don’t even know. Too many distractions. Even now. Especially now. Ugh. What’s this on the internet? There must be an article I haven’t read. Or a meme I haven’t seen. The incessant construction is maddening. Every morning it starts. Some days I’m startled out of sleep. Others, I’ve been up waiting for its inevitable commencement. What’s that? Oh, the dog across the hall going for another walk. His leash jingles every time. Or is it my neighbors keys? Who knows. Focus, I tell myself over and over again, as if that will help anything. It’s the same as telling someone to calm down. Calm down. Breathe. That’s another good one I try, so I can focus. And write. No dice. I wonder where that phrase came from. I guess I can guess, but I won’t. Here’s Danny, the cat. How cute and sweet — now, when he’s fed. When he’s not, he’s the greatest interrupter of all. Practiced and agile, he knows the right buttons. The right triggers, no matter the time or place, to get me up.
There’s still people out. More than she would’ve expected considering the city is on lockdown. Essential workers, the only ones allowed out for any length of time. Everyone else, supposedly only for grocery shopping or a quick walk around the block.
No loitering. No getting closer than 6 feet to another human. No exceptions. A near-impossible order in a city of millions. But after being trapped inside for weeks, it was becoming a question of what’s more important, sanity or sheltering in place? For now, a quick jaunt to her favorite park and back. She needs to soak in the city a bit to regain her strength.
It’s a Tuesday morning. And she finally gets to do this. Just sit in a café and write and sip a cappuccino with chocolate sprinkled on top. How many times she’s walked by her own favorite café on her way to work…longing for a time when she could be so carefree as to just stop, sit, sip, and write. Now here she is. Still a bit tired from the nights of work…a different kind of work…she takes it in. Trying to squeeze out as much joy as possible.
Part of her longs for the sleeping man back at the flat. But the nights are for him and his art. The mornings, maybe, can be for hers. She could get used to this. Bopping around from place to place, city to city. Soaking in the nightlife as he shares his talents and his voice with all those who will listen. Her, waking up early to make time to find her own voice. If you have a story inside, you must get it out. She read that recently; some famous dude said it. But it sounds right.
She opened her eyes after what felt like years of sleep. Frozen in place, she looked around, taking in…whatever or wherever this was. It must still be a dream. A light dew covered her skin. It was starting to get light. But she couldn’t tell from where. There was no sun here. Maybe it was the moonlight. Suddenly, fog was everywhere.
Numb. She couldn’t remember the last thing that happened. Tears. Yes. But they would no longer come. On to somewhere or someone else, she supposed. It’s almost as if she wanted them to stay. There is comfort in tears. And truth. What now?
She stood outside in the cold just to feel something. One hand holding a joint, the other shoved in her pocket flicking a penny back and forth. An owl hooted in the distance. Other than that, it was quiet save for the wind whistling in and around the buildings now and then. The tourists had already fled the city for the night.
Her breath swirled around in front of her face as she thought back on the day and the weeks since she’d been here. Numb now, the burn of the smoke in her lungs was the only thing still hot.
A shopkeeper opened his door with a loud screech and started sweeping away invisible debris.
Startled back to reality, her plans for retreat were momentarily interrupted. Feeling silly for being scared, she flashed the smile that never failed her and added a nod for good measure.
It’s just a sleepy little town in the middle of nowhere. Used to the big city, it’s only natural her imagination would run a bit wild. All outsiders must be something of a novelty to the people here. Of course they would stop and stare.
It’s dark. The bright sunlight is sneaking in the windows behind the bar. It hits off the wine glasses parked in the window and sparkles. Glitter and glamour are in the DNA of this place.
It’s soft and tranquil. The couches are comfy. I feel glamourous just being here for a moment. Observing. Once again, I wonder who notices the girl in the corner — sitting quietly, drinking her bubbles. Feeling fabulous.
Sunflowers in red vases top the marble mantle. Fake. Which seems odd, but I guess fake is welcome here. The mantle itself adds a grandeur that can’t be fabricated.