Tuesday, March 24, 2020

My Corona

My Corona
Tuesday, March 24, 2020
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My depressed daughter amped up her eating disorder the Monday before Mayor Adler shut down the city.

I checked her into Dell Children’s Hospital fifteen miles from our home, on a day when traffic was traffic because Austin was Austin and a cough meant simply catching a cold.

The first night I was lost in her nightmare.

Seattle was on the moon.

The stock market crashed in a forest with no trees and Italy was a scream muffled by an ocean.

I slept in a rollout bed beside a window looking out at a courtyard of mistflowers and wandering jews. Vines of purple, clusters of white petals. No children swung from the branches or played in the flower beds. The birds chirped but no one answered them.

Light filtering through the green, blue, red, and yellow stained glass of odd-shaped windows cast rainbows on my toes on the way from my daughter’s room to the cafeteria on the first floor. Stale bagels, chipped ice, the screech of chairs pulling out from tables. Men and women talked hunched over in muted conversations. A woman in scrubs pressed her palm against a pane of glass, reaching out to her own reflection. The granola tasted like sand in my mouth.

It didn’t smell like a hospital there, but I saw dead children everywhere, so when they said, “wash your hands thoroughly,” I thoroughly complied, and I won’t deny it took some work not crying every time I passed a wall of art signed with loopy handwriting.

Depressed kids can turn a remote control into a suicide plan so we listen to the Food Network on mute, my daughter spread out in her bed with half-open eyes and eyebrows shaped like waning crescent moons knitted low on a face I have loved since the moment it breathed life into this world.

These days, I have to beg my world to eat a cracker.

The next day they admitted her into the psyche ward secluded on the second floor while that bug brought to Virginia Mason from across the sea spread its hands over the map of the USA and our mockery of a president finally had to confess that we’re fighting more than flu.

I drove home alone with a stack of paperwork.

The following week I ride to the hospital on empty roads built from DUIs and long goodbyes and calamities no one saw coming. An eerie silence silenced the live capital music of the world. My son and I scattered from the car in a dance of sleeved hands. I signed the release form and my daughter walked out into a world different than any world before or at least since she was born, fifteen years ago.

She didn’t seem to notice. Her face was glowing. She met a boy in there named Shiloh. He drew a ring around her finger with a red magic marker. They made paper mache pets and gave them names like “Schizophrenic Spot” and “Bipolar Buddy.” They met in the hallway at night when everyone else was sleeping and held hands and exchanged numbers, although they’re not supposed to.

And now it’s Sunday 10:50 am, the air conditioning is roaring and I’m working because back in January, I warned my employer, “We needed a teleworking plan” and they ignored me. Now I attend Saturday, Sunday conference calls with my ear to the walls and the shouting for laptops to appear. No one acknowledges my prevision except for Christie in Network Access who Skypes, “Sorry we didn’t listen to you sooner.”

My daughter folds into my view. Hair messy, yawning. She’s spent all morning sleeping off last night’s conversations. I heard her giggling from the other room.

(I found a plate in the kitchen sink this morning, and two slices of bread were missing.)

She approaches me, smiling. Reaches out to braid my hair. Love has filled the vessel of her grief. Shiloh, the hero. I am okay with this impermanent menu; I only wish I was the one who could feed her.

Our cure is our ruin is our cure. This conference call could last for hours.

My daughter asks if I want my plaits fat or thin like spaghetti. There’s a ski resort in Ischgl with three floors of coughing patrons. Trafalgar Square is empty. In Madrid the Spanish army has turned a skating rink into a mortuary for victims of the first attack. This was only the beginning. Overnight the Giants stole the crown from the Seahawks. Now the Alphabet City is counting numbers. Trains move without passengers. Carnegie Hall sleeps without singers. In Central Park, pigeons make their own dinner.

Every man for himself. Every saint to their sinner. Every sin to its saving grace—the great black eye shining light into our existence, speaking truth: “It is time. Choose wisely.”

Our ruin is our only salvation.
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