Sunday, June 7, 2020

A Quarantine Walk



The dishes are done, the leftovers are in the fridge. It is time for our walk.

We step out onto the front porch. Over the words “ X actually” in black on the sidewalk.  I chalked a colorful phrase last week and did not know that the black was going to remain long after the other colors washed away. I can’t scrub it out. 

To be honest, it doesn't look like it would come out if I tried. 

Which I haven't. 

Because it wouldn't come out.

I have unintentionally tagged my neighborhood with a dark “X”, and at first I feel slightly guilty but this is 2020 after all. 

Why pick this one thing to feel guilty about?


Past a hydrangea bush in front of Laura’s house that is getting so big it almost hides the door.  So much rain lately. Why have the landscapers not trimmed the flowers back yet? 


Underneath a gold Toyota Camry suspended six feet in the air, on a metal lift, waiting to be fixed tomorrow. It is suspended motionless in the air above the cracked and oil-stained pavement of the Budget Brakes.


Past the Turnip Truck, which opened during quarantine. It is so new that the sweet, sticky smell of fresh lumber still lingers in the air around it. Audrey stops at the glass window and looks longingly inside, gazing at the shelves of almond flour and organic chick peas and collagen supplements. 


She asks if we can go in and she knows that I will shake my head and say that I am not going to waste my one trip to the grocery store this week on a hipster market. 

Quarantine is not a time to be sentimental.


Over the cockroaches, who scurry to and fro on the sidewalk in front of the gas station. We skip and dance to keep them from running over our feet or into our shoes. We don’t understand why there are so many cockroaches right here, big and fat and shiny. 

I tell stories about dodging flying cockroaches in Alabama when I was a child. Audrey and Grant groan. "Ugh, you tell us that story all the time! You try to make your childhood sound so terrible and Gigi says it wasn't and then she gets mad." 

I do, and she does.  


In the glow of the half light of the restaurants and shops along Charlotte Pike. They are not open and have not been all day and will not be tomorrow. They miss us and they don’t understand. Their storefront eyes are wide open and confused, waiting for us to explain.  

Each day they seem a little less hopeful that we ever will.


To the lawyer’s office on the corner by the park. His name is painted in gold shiny letters on the glass door. Just like they did back in the '40s, probably. We peer through the window and play the game of Spot the Difference.

That pen wasn’t there yesterday. 

He seems to have been there every day. I don’t understand why legal services are an essential service. Maybe they aren’t.

The lamp is on today. 

A door inside the office that leads to a back hallway is ajar.

That remote control for the air conditioner has been moved.

An umbrella has appeared.

And every night I lament that he isn’t watering his plants. One of them in particular is drying out. How can he come to his office every single day and never water this plant? I would water it but the office is locked.


As we walk back home we talk about the day’s news and COVID statistics and we make guesses about the future. We talk about our friends and how they are probably doing.


When we arrive back home it is just 9:30 but I’m ready to go to sleep and dream the vivid dreams of quarantine.


Of a  black X

      An out-of-control hydrangea

                                                        Cars in the air

Cockroaches running in fretful circles 

                       Collagen supplements just out of our reach

          Confused and empty storefronts 

And a plant 

that I cannot water


6 comments:

Unknown said...

I enjoyed reading this. Would like to know when you post something else.

Melanie Gao said...

Thanks for stopping by. You’re always welcome here.

Cory said...

I always love reading your Downtown Diner posts. Speaking of diner... we have time set. But must do so soon as my world is a-changing. I'll IM you. Hugs from your buddy and partner once upon a time in harissa eating, CRC. :)

Melanie Gao said...

I’m looking forward to hearing what changes are underway for you CRC!

Unknown said...

I enjoyed this. Keep posting

Melanie Gao said...

Thank you! I’m trying to write more in 2020. Turns out I’ve got some time in my hands. :)