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.