Last weekend, when my husband suggested we take my car to the car wash, I dismissed the idea.
“I just got it cleaned in February,” I responded.
“But it’s May,” he said.
Even after 10 weeks of living in quarantine, February doesn’t feel that far away. Has it really been that long? February, the last full pre-quarantine month, was filled with errands that I didn’t think twice about doing, like stopping into the grocery store because we needed milk, or walking through a crowded Nordstrom to return a jacket, or waiting in line at the post office without a mask.
And it was filled with people we saw in person, closer than 6 feet away, like our parents, and our toddler nephews, and our friends down the street.
My husband and I did things in February like attend a friend’s wedding in New York, and celebrate my Mom’s birthday.
Without these errands and activities, my to-do list is filled with tasks like sorting through the cabinet under the bathroom sink and organizing the shelves in my closet.
These past 10 weeks, I’ve completed almost all of those tasks. Hidden away parts of our house, like the front coat closet, or under the bathroom sink, or the bookcase in the corner of the living room, have been emptied, scrubbed, and repurposed. Each of these jobs would’ve taken months, or years, to complete, simply because everyday life, things like commuting to and from work, visiting family and friends, and running those errands, would have taken precedence.
In between repurposing, my husband and I have also celebrated birthdays, holidays, and our 1-year anniversary.
And yet, with all of these domestic accomplishments, and with the passing of each of these milestones, when someone mentions February, I experience five distinct emotions. Sadness, frustration, apathy, nostalgia, and hope. I’ve started to think of these emotions as the five emotions of quarantine.
February appears in my mind like a good friend, standing at a socially distant 10 feet. It’s so nice to see her. I wave at her, and smile, and only when I think to cross the street and give her a hug do I feel a great sadness. Sadness, as if I’m missing my friend. Sadness is followed by frustration. I’m frustrated because I must refrain from a basic instinct: human interaction. The feeling of frustration is followed by the feeling of apathy. I think, what’s the point? I wonder if a replacement for human interaction, such as a Zoom happy hour, is even worth it. I remember real happy hours, remember sitting in a bar booth with two girlfriends in early March, listening to live piano and sharing plates of chicken satay and crab and avocado with tortilla chips. And just like that, apathy is replaced with nostalgia.
I long for those late afternoons that turn into evenings. I start to think of other pre-quarantine memories, like leaving a yoga class and stopping to chat with a friend. Or pushing my nephew down the sidewalk in his Little Tykes car as fast I can and hearing him shout with joy. When I think of these memories, I remember myself experiencing them, as if it wasn’t 10 weeks ago. And I remember that at some point, there will be newer versions of these memories. I am hopeful for that day.