At the drugstore while purchasing lock-down provisions, I spot a bar of chocolate wrapped in pink tinfoil. I devour it whole as I walk back home, carrying kitchen bleach and soy milk in a plastic bag. It tastes almost exactly like the strawberry yogurt cups of my distant childhood. I am drawn to the familiarity of that flavor, rather than its taste.
Familiarity anchors me in place. I work from home, and, at four in the afternoon, I call my parents and brother. They are spending their days indoors, enduring cycle after cycle of furious cleaning followed by listless channel-surfing on the couch. With all the investigative ardor of an archaeologist discovering a tomb of relics, my mother regales me with a litany of Hollywood-lite tinfoil-hat theories collated from WhatsApp chats. Gently, chidingly, I try to act as the counterweight to conspiracy, but frequently find myself an unsuitable challenger against its muddying, maddening rhetoric. My brother, sporting long hair and the beginnings of a scratchy beard, tells me he will use his time in quarantine to compose a sea shanty.
I drink endless cups of coffee and then, when that runs out, I start on a 100-bag stash of cheap, powdery Ceylon. I trawl through survivalist forums. I idly ponder if I have enough time to start a vegetable garden on my poorly-lit balcony before the apocalypse hits. I conclude that I will have to make do with four cans of red kidney beans and a liter of Aquarius. I answer e-mails, though not with much gusto. I write, though not particularly well. When Strawberry asks what it is I say “a travelogue about staying inside.”
Routine forms a chain that orients and re-orients me toward important tasks, though my thoughts tend to want to wander from the path. I think about my birthday, which was this Saturday. I turned 26, meaning that I have officially outlived Keats. I think about my dreams, which have become progressively darker and more wild. When I wake, it is with the sensation that my mind has trawled through wet, damp sludge, and made it through, but not unashamed, and not clean. I pull back the heavy curtains. The sun is shining, and chubby clouds dot the spring sky. I am riddled with fear. I have woken to a beautiful day with my heart already extruded into bloody pulp. How wrong it seems–that the weather should be so picture-perfect, at a time and in a world like this.