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Karen Babine


My phone beeps a reminder to water my herbs every other day. It’s supposed to rain today, so I won’t. Yesterday it was a sunny morning—at least I think that was yesterday—and I went out to talk to the plants, noted the tiny, paper-thin mushrooms growing next to my oregano, and with regret at how finely they were crafted, I took my little cultivator to the soil and pulled them out.

My seventeen-year-old cat Galway wanders into the kitchen between naps and two months ago, I had two cats. Grief over a pet is complicated in these covid-days as friends lose family members. I measure grief in the quiet where Maeve’s Siamese voice used to be, because I can’t measure grief in days, or weeks. I notice there’s dust on her little urn, sitting there next to the tv because I don’t know where to put it, time settling around us.

There are rumbles in the air, storms already starting to darken my morning. The day doesn’t look how it should for 10:00. I’m glad the lawn got mowed before the rain, but was that yesterday? I can’t remember. I’m trying not to startle at storms after the tornadoes that came through during the last week of our semester, pushing off finals week, the semester that never ends, we joke.

When the tornado knocked out my power, I ate Hawaiian bread with peanut butter, canned fruit. When the power came back on two and a half days later, I splurged on an expensive toaster convection oven I’d wanted for a long time and by the time it dings, I’ve already forgotten what I put in there. Today, I remember to pull out my label maker to label it with the date I bought it, so I don’t forget. It’s a trick I picked up from my dad. The disorientation of these days is that I can’t trust my memory.

Where I live just saw the largest one-day increase of COVID-19 cases and even though I need to go to the store, I don’t want to. I want to make my mom’s honey whole wheat bread, but it needs three rises, so it’s too late in the day to start today. Maybe tomorrow. But I said that yesterday too. I couldn’t find whole wheat flour for a long time, but maybe two weeks ago, I found some at Target and was so relieved, I nearly started crying right there in the aisle. I’m not a crier.

I’m trying to create new routines, something to make this day different from yesterday. One thing for the house, one thing for work, one thing just for me—I try to manage that every day, but realistically, it doesn’t happen often. I live alone, so if I don’t do the thing, it doesn’t get done, and then I wonder how long has that been sitting there? I try to write something in my pandemic journal every day because if I can’t remember what day it is, how will I remember what happened as the pandemic stretches beyond what we think we can hold? Today I felt guilty about the quarantine not being too bad, because I’m alone in my house, without the friction of partner or homeschooling children, but I’m also reminded that misery isn’t a contest. I’m not miserable, but I feel like my hold slips from one minute to the next.

My seven year old nephew cried over video chat this week. “When will the virus be over so you can come home?” I don’t know, angel. I don’t even know what day it is.

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All images other than author photos and artist artwork ©Matthew Batt 2020