Week six, so my spouse tells me, is when quarantine really starts to grind. When people realize that they’re not actually going to get a decent haircut, and so just need to break out the YouTube videos and the scissors, or the electric razor. When they start scrabbling at the windows. When all the resolutions to try out that new recipe for chard-stuffed homemade ravioli have been discarded for kraft mac+cheese with chopped-up Oscar Meyer hot dogs. When the actual hard labor of having a kitchen garden starts to slide into “onions are drought tolerant, right?” When the sniping over whose turn it is to mop the goddamn floor please kicks into third gear.
When Johnny comes out to play.
Here it’s fine. It’s mostly appearing as a kind of melancholy among my children. A kind of bargaining over when they’ll actually get to celebrate their birthday (“when the coronavirus is over”), and where (“probably not at Wacky Tacky. Because, yes, the coronavirus”). Bargaining over when they can go visit their grandparents in the mountains (in a county where there have been no reported cases). Bargaining over when we can go swimming.
Oddly, not bargaining over when they can visit their friends. Or doing their schoolwork. Or helping with the household chores. Because, I guess, our priorities reveal themselves in where our children understand the real, inflexible, boundaries lay.
Week #6 is when our privileges reveal themselves. For instance, that one of the side-effects of taking in my parents for the quarantine is not just that they can provide childcare, but that they can also chip in for groceries. Or, that the side effect of my spouse’s company suspending payments on his ownership stake (i.e., delaying debt payments, essentially) is that I can shift my share of current accounts into paying off credit card debt. Or, that we can seriously contemplate a major renovation in combination with building an addition.
Because labor is cheap in a recession.
If we are lucky — lucky, while my friend who’s a pediatrician tells me stories of intubating a nurse friend; lucky, while my brother is e-mailing me a copy of his will because the papers have started printing stories of 40 year olds dropping dead of strokes or hemorrhaged lungs; lucky, while my grandmother sailed off into that endless rippling grain field in a boat steered with morphine and Zantac — if we are lucky, they say, we can all go back to some semblance of normality on June 1. Maybe. They say.
In the meantime, here I am discussing with a friend how to commission a live theatre performance of “Masque of the Red Death.” Because nothing says purgative like OBVI. Ugh.