Coronatine, Day Twenty-six

The day begins with this chicken lining the bottom layer of an IKEA/Costco bag beneath the bagels I’d actually been searching for, beneath its canned chicken counterparts, beneath a giant double box of mini-wheats.

This $22 worth of chicken, sitting at the bottom of a bag for five days and not put away into the freezer. This double-grocery trip, gloves and mask on, this bucket of Pinesol and hot water ready on the porch, me carefully removing the packaging, carefully scrubbing down every last item with the cloth rag and my made-up formula, carefully trying not to bring this virus into my house.

This chicken that I asked my oldest daughter to put away.

In my mind is everything: her loss of prom. Of not being in the first and only musical of her life. Of her not lettering in dance (her only chance of a letter). Of her high school days abruptly ending on March 13 because she’s already signed up to take all her classes next year at the community college. Of her missing AP Physics with the same pain she’d miss a boyfriend.

In my mind is everything: her words to me last week, completely out of the blue: “I’m moving in with my friend and her parents the second I turn 18.” Her friend since kindergarten running off with a boy in the middle of the night, her mother’s frantic phone calls at 3:30am, and my daughter’s candid retort the next night over dinner, after the friend had been found: “I’ve thought about running away so many times. So many times.”

In my mind is everything: soon to be without a second income, soon to be without decent health insurance, I’ve been stocking up on every last thing so that my storage room looks more like a second Costco and my freezer is (should be) filled with this goddamned chicken, and why can’t my ever-so-smart daughter do the simplest thing, show me some semblance of respect?

Everything spills out over tears that I can’t control before it’s even 7:30. Everything, everything: the wish to run away, the wish to move out, the haven’t-I-tried-to-be-good-to-you, the you-know-I-love-you-so-why-do-you-hate-me?

She is a lump in the bed, unresponsive to my words. All I can do is return to my room, flush out the tears, and record my daily video lesson for my Newcomers, which takes an hour longer because I have learned how to add subtitles for a deaf girl in my class, a refugee who cannot hear a word in any language but can draw Anime art like no one you’ve ever met.

Then Bernie drops out, the stock market immediately takes a leap of faith because this country will always be profits over people, and it seems there is no hope in the world on day twenty-six of this cursed Coronatine.

I pound my frustration into chopping vegetables for the pot roast, its scent soon spreading through the house like a virus worth scintillating.

I decide to finally make the summer trip cancellations, hoping for some semblance of refunds, but the travel industry is one of the most unforgiving on the planet, and I am left with a few small rewards and thirty hours of research and hopeful anticipation lost to sickness, layoffs, and disappointment that brings on wave after wave of new tears.

She doesn’t come downstairs for hours, and when she does, she is all made up, beautiful and young and representing the promise that everyone would want for our future. She avoids me further for another forty-five minutes, then offers to help me with the second sourdough I’ve attempted within a week, setting the timer to fold and re-fold the dough. She agrees, later, to watch Dirty Dancing with me because it’s the only thing I can think of that will cheer me up, and laughs at my pathetic attempt to chainsaw the juniper.

She makes her special sweet coffee drink for everyone, including Fabian who never in his life had heard of iced coffee, but gulps it down happily within seconds.

And I know that she is more than this stupid $22 worth of chicken. That seventeen-year-old girls say mean things to their moms just fucking because. That every problem I have listed here is a first-world problem.

And I know that small things are beginning to blossom in my yard. And I have to stop thinking about “What if” and “Why can’t we?” and start thinking about these small shoots and sprouts and flowers that pop up when I need them the most.

And my girls are still in spring even as I approach winter. They need sunlight, soil, refreshment.

And forgiveness.

And I have made it through another day of this. Just. Like. That.