Diary of a Quarantined Kid
Rachel Brenner on Unsplash
The small stained-glass rectangle in my room lets in an orange-hued light that irritates my eyes. Birds begin chirping their daily gossip outside my window, but inside, the only sound is the faint, excited chatter of a YouTube intro from my youngest brother’s iPad. My door swings open. No one’s standing there.
“Charlie, go away! You literally cannot be hungry right now. Didn’t I fill your bowl last night?”
Sweeping my legs out of bed to tend to my needy cat, another day of isolation begins. Ugh… great. What could possibly happen today?
I open the creaky door to the back mudroom. Charlie happily prances behind me. As he stares down squirrels through the glass, I already feel the humidity seeping through the walls and the sunlight becomes more prominent. Watching summer’s snow shower of cottonwood fluff, I still feel the same dislike for my backyard that I’ve held for ten years now. Turning back into the kitchen, a 12 oz French press filled with fresh coffee awaits. The chocolatey, nutty, and roasty tendrils of aroma beckon the timer to end sooner so I could finally enjoy those first head rushes of caffeine (am I a caffeine addict?) Brrriiingggggg! The plunger gets plunged. Out pours my coffee. And it’s off to the front porch to gaze at the morning joggers, smiling dogs, and the now significantly reduced traffic of a once busy street.
Settled onto the wicker couch, I begin one of my favorite quarantine routines. This is the most the Bible my grandfather gifted me for Confirmation has been used, but over the weeks of isolation, going through the daily readings have helped me set a pace for my day. I search the lines of text, which are slightly blurred by speckles of yesterday’s yellow highlighter, for some source of inspiration to carry throughout the day. Please dear God, give me something. I know I should be patient and appreciate the present...but...I wish you could just snap your fingers and make this damn virus go away.
I reel in the whining and enter into a more formal conversation with God thanking Him for the gift of the present moment. For the nature around me. For my family. For the opportunity to be alive and experience the transcendent. I ask for the strength to continuously live intentionally through this pandemic. God, what can I do today to make it special? Despite closures and social distancing restrictions, my freedom is found in my attitude towards life. Everyday of quarantine has felt like a struggle to choose hope rather than despair. However, the prospect of hope propels me forward to seek an intentional, creative means of living. There has to be something else to this living happily business, plus I think my couch is going to break up with me.
The laundry machine whirrs in the basement and the gate to the backyard sounds its usual rattle as my brothers go off for a distant bike ride with their friends. I’m alone in the kitchen watching Charlie prowl by as he makes his rounds (I’m sick of this cat acting like he owns the place.) Mom’s pink Post-It note flashes its cursive list of to-dos and slowly the note fills with checkmarks. Up next, dishes. And then, lunch. Thank God I’m getting all this practice in before packing off to Notre Dame. As I prepare lunch, Phoebe Bridgers sings, “When I get back I'll lay around/And I'll get up and lay back down/Romanticize the quiet life/There's no place like my room.” Humming along and relating way too much to the lyrics, my hands guide our terribly dull knife through some tomatoes, onions, and cucumbers for a Mediterranean chickpea salad. Staring at my healthy creation, I appreciate the access to groceries I’m lucky to have during this time. Plus, basic kitchen skills go a long way when most of the day it's just the house and myself. I run over to the computer to check what’s for dinner and begin mentally mapping how much time it’ll take. Geez?! Phoebe’s still playing? I need to find something other than quarantine blues.
I thought it’d be cute to have a “picnic” outside like in some aesthetic YouTube vlog. No. Too hot. Too many gnats. I saw one wasp. Convinced of the immense danger I was in, the indoors looked much more appealing. Back at the dining room table, the pad of watercolor paper across from me suggests that I have some sort of artistic idea in this quarantine-mushed brain of mine. Soon, the water cups are filled, the paints are out, and the painting looks like a whole vomit. Faced with this problem and almost taking a swig of the dirty paint water, stroke by stroke I patiently form mountains and trees from the muddled mess of pigment. Voilà! Hughes has struck his artistic genius yet again! I’m proud of myself for picking up such a technical challenge like watercolors and persisting through the frustration and tens of shredded sheets.
Regaining consciousness on the living-room couch after my nap, I see Charlie slumped in front of the fan (stop blocking the air!) I hear my brothers come back in the house only minutes later to leave again.
“What are you doing?”
“Oh, I just needed to grab a football!”
“I SWEAR if you get me corona…”
“I’m being safe...BYE!” *the slam of the back door followed by the crank of bicycle chains*
I really should get up. I think I need a change of perspective.
Hmmm...that spider web on my bedroom ceiling looks new. Not much of a change, huh? This is the point in the afternoon where things feel like they want to blur together. I mean, one blink and suddenly, an hour’s come and gone. I turn my neck to crack it and I’m met with my copy of One Hundred Years of Solitude I bought months ago to challenge myself to read something in Spanish. How ironically befitting! Now, I would consider myself a fan of magical realism and boy, would I love to escape my current situation. However, reading when I have all the time in the world doesn’t seem feasible. Intrigued enough (barely, but enough,) I flip open the first page which greets me with Coronel Aureliano Buendía in front of a firing squad remembering when he first encountered ice. Like that blink of an eye, that hour passes and I’m fifty pages deep. My home begins to feel like the sleepy village of Macondo and magical realism comes alive. How can I make this super mundane situation even a pinch more extraordinary? What about my attitude can I change to notice the little beauties of life?
I love reading in Spanish a lot, I do, BUT my mind is fried. The magical realism hit hard. Lazily, I lift my phone to my face and see the double 0’s glaring back at me. Oh shit...the laundry!
Mom should be super close to home and the pasta is finishing up nicely. Perfectly al dente. Grandma would be proud. Wooden spoon in hand, the second half of my concert is beginning with “Dreams” by Fleetwood Mac. Next up, Bad Bunny followed by H.E.R.. The mix of genres is a little eclectic, but these are strange times. I would very much rather sing reggaetón at Lake Michigan with friends or cruise down Lakeshore Drive blasting R&B. Dancing and poorly singing in the kitchen while almost knocking boiling water off the stove is the next best option. Hey, I’m having fun and that’s what matters. The jingle of car keys coming in the door signals it’s time to set the table and plate up dinner. Success!
My shoes hit the pavement at an even cadence and I cross over the interstate watching rush hour’s last stragglers. Hmm, people still are out here living their lives as normally as possible. A cotton-candy sky meets my gaze and the street lamps ignite, casting their sodium-yellow glow on the street. The cicada screeches drown out my own huffs for air. This is a summer night. And how wonderful it is! Families plant their chairs in front lawns. The air smells of hotdogs and firewood. Beer bottles clink for Zoom happy hour. Others race past me on bicycles. The runners I pass crease their eyes and I do likewise. Such a passing gesture, one I now know to be a smile, feels so profound. Back on my block, those final sprinting strides take the rest of my energy, but I’m pleased to routinely run again. And there’s Charlie sitting at the front door (honestly, he’s the one who needs to run.)
Kristen Murphy: hey bby! wanna watch skam tonight with logan?
yeah! call a group ft in like five?
okays! do you like the show so far?
surprisingly...yes. and i hate that i do.
normally i don’t like that
type of drama stuff...but do i want
to be a parisian teen??? yes, yes i do.
LMAO i’ve converted u. see i told you it was good. now i’ll force
u to watch the og norwegian one.
ugh...fine i guess :)
I miss my friends a lot. We all fall asleep now with blue-light-stung eyes which are probably bloodshot if we could look in a mirror. The pitch black of my room seems to illustrate how the world feels right now. Dark. Unclear. Scary. Suffocating. I’ll wake up tomorrow and the situation will be the same. The same monotony will govern the next 24 hours and the 24 after those and… ENOUGH! What about all the good that happened today? I prayed, painted, cooked, napped, read, listened to music, ran, talked to friends, and watched some TV. I appreciated the slowness of my current life and that is good. I learned how to be more intentional throughout my day and that is good. I am safe, full, and warm and that is good. I am alive…and that is good.
The small stained-glass rectangle in my room lets in an orange-hued light that gently streams across my face as my eyes flutter open. Birds begin their sweet, high-pitched serenade…