IN ROOMS ALL OVER AMERICA, OR MAYBE JUST AROUND MY BLOCK

It’s months into this pandemic. We are all, well all of us who want to remain alive, inside–still. The above is the view from my balcony. All of those windows are where people are living. I like to imagine who they are and what they are doing.

In condo 4c, Chris and Franny have just taught their Pitbull Estelle to roll over. It took two days of intense treats, which Estelle knew exactly what were for, but she stretched the whole training thing out. More treats, you see. Estelle is white, mostly, but she has the most adorable black patch over her left eye. It looks like an eyebrow and that Estelle is giving them an arch look all the time. It’s bonkers. Chris and Franny think Estelle rescued them, instead of the other way around.

In 1A, Howard lives alone. He isn’t terribly sad about the pandemic, because Howard has never enjoyed lots of people. He lives in his head, mostly, and now that he has been working from home, he has really enjoyed ordering succulents online and making a window garden. He has even started water gardening, with hanging globes filled with the iridescent roots of his various propagation experiments. He looks out over the river, and wakes up early, puts on his mask, and strolls along the bank, waving from a distance to the runners and bikers out there. He likes to make these vague inroads into sociability at a distance. That suits Howard fine.

Ruth lives with her teen daughter Simone over on the other side of the building in 10D. They are on the top floor, and I can see their apartment from my balcony. They have fairy lights on their balcony. They look festive. Simone hates being cooped up, and she is getting totally bored of Zoom. She is hoping that she will be able to go back to school soon at least part time, but things are looking grim. Ruth worries that if Simone goes back to school, she will take off her mask and hug all of her friends. Ruth has asthma, so this keeps her up nights. Ruth is afraid that heedless teens might signal her demise.

My favorite is Marva in the first floor apartment facing the water. Marva, who is thanking her lucky stars that she is a retired teacher, has spent her pandemic time planting a perennial garden in the tiny plot allotted to her outside her apartment. Marva put in all kinds of sun-loving plants, and she also tried to plan her tiny plot so that something will be blooming from spring until fall. When she is finished out there and has scrubbed all of the dirt from under her fingernails, she works on the puzzle of Mount Kilimanjaro that her son  Kevin sent her. She has also begun making cheese grits with shrimp for her husband Ron, who so far thinks they are delicious, but need hot sauce.

Steve and Susan are retired. They live in a loft. They have a jetted tub, which they both fit in, and they like to soak in it right before bed. Steve reads poetry aloud to Susan, to help her relax. Susan holds his hand in bed.

Over at the Bright’s condo, Alfie and Rose spend a great deal of time on their roof deck, drinking gin and t’s and playing cards by lantern light. They keep a running score, and so far, Alfie is just barely ahead. If the games go on too long, Rose has the advantage, however, as Alf gets a little blurry after his third drink.

Back over here, in #522, it’s a little different. I am dying to make scones, but damn it, CARBS. The kitten refuses to stop jumping on the counters, and I worry that she might get burned on the electric stove that never looks hot. So I have to lay cutting boards all over it for protection before we sit down to eat whatever meal I cooked out of our subscription box. Last night it was Ratatouille. It required three pans, four different knives, unpitting Kalamata olives, and when all was said and done, it was meh. At #522, the days stretch long. I am here alone a lot, and I have no home projects, as everything here is new. I exercise in the morning, and then sit with coffee and the newsfeeds, which plunges me into despair before noon. Napping happens. Nothing much else goes on, except inside my head.

Here is what I really wish. I wish I could play cards with Alfie and Ruth. If Steve would call and read me a poem, I would be thrilled. Marva could just leave a Tupperware container of  shrimp and grits in the mailroom with my name on it; that would be the best. I would love to tell Simone to shut up and get with the program–she damn well better keep that mask on if she goes to school! I would love to ask if I could walk Estelle, and we would toddle over to Howard’s with our masks on (well, maybe not for Estelle), and Howard could pet Estelle and tell me why my jade plants keep dying.

If only.

Next time, I might tell you about the Breens. They live in that renovated old office building that I see when I look out from the other side of my balcony. I imagine they might be musicians. And Josie Breen might just have two Siamese cats. Her husband might play the marimba and take medical marijuana. Josie might want a parrot.

I might tell you about them.

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