You don’t know what day it is. What difference does it make anyway? Tuesday and Saturday are the same. Like airplanes and hospital waiting rooms, your home is a bubble where time isn’t real. It moves too quickly, whole weeks moving at warp speed. Or too slowly, minutes passing increment by increment. You don’t know how long you’ve been at this, tracking the days. The journal where you track the number of lockdown days and the deathtoll of your home and adopted countries is tucked away inside under a pile of paperwork. Today, it’s also unclear to you how long you’ve been outside. It’s midday, hot and sticky and silent, and it’s been awhile since the last call to prayer reminded you that you hadn’t eaten. It feels something like being numb.
You didn’t have a chance to buy patio furniture before the lockdown. Before they poured sand across all the roads in and out. Before the suspiciously cheerful emails about new restrictions and equally suspicious advertisements at the grocery store: “Our warehouse is fully stocked!” Your home, half put together and hasty all over, is a mix of furniture the last person left, things you had delivered before the lockdown, and things you unpacked but haven’t found a place for. You move through it in the same way: unsure of where exactly you belong. If you were allowed to have guests, or if you knew anyone well enough to invite them over, you’d say something like, “I’m so sorry, we’re just getting settled in,” as though this is a temporary inconvenience. But you don’t have guests and you don’t have patio furniture, so you have a camp chair on the concrete balcony. The eaves block some of the sun, but it’s still so hot. Hotter than you’d ever seen back home, except for that semester you spent in Florida. But here you are, dazed and sweating, like a frog in a pot. You put your headphones in.
Much like the weather, the date, the *gestures around at everything*, the song itself barely registers. You are in a liminal space somewhere else, while Spotify loops Dolly Parton’s “Light of a Clear Blue Morning” over and over. You have no idea how many repeats this is. You look out beyond the concrete square and abandoned mini-mart and neighboring apartment buildings, and you see a sliver of the clear blue sky she’s talking about. It’s too hot and too dry for clouds, so this sliver is perfectly empty, stark and nearly fluorescent compared to the rest of the sand-colored buildings. If you concentrated, you could almost see an eagle take to it, finding its rhythm in the empty sky. You can’t concentrate.
There are no eagles here, either.
Usually, the sky and the song soothe you. Remind you of what lies beyond the present, cataracted as it is by circumstance, global trauma, homesickness, isolation. Remind you that there is a something on the other side of all this. Given that it’s the only “outside” you can see from the apartment, you spend a lot of time looking at that single sliver. Thinking about the life you were supposed to live underneath the sprawling blue.
You never figured that picking up stakes would leave you trapped in the house for months with your mom and sister. This is usually a gift, but you long for silence the same way you long for sky. On balance, it beats being locked in the house with someone who’s more ex than boyfriend. As the song starts over again, you’re thinking of home. The one you’re not quite finished leaving behind, and another you’re not ready to return to. That home’s filled with voices that lift and twang the way Dolly’s does, even if you haven’t heard them in a very long time.
The half-finished life you’re building here is in limbo, like the furniture. The same sky hangs over all of it. You scoot around in your ridiculous soccer-mom chair, trying to find an angle at which you can sulk without seeing the sky. It is perfect in a way that makes you seethe under the sweat. You’re not despondent, not exactly, mostly just numb. And the absolutely perfect sky makes numbness impossible. It demands to be acknowledged, it’s clarity like a lantern for your mosquito-eyes, impossible to ignore. You scoot your chair toward the door, away from the too-blue sky.