During the Pandemic (2020)
Modeled after Rick Barot's chapbook, During the Pandemic, I reflected on my own experiences in quarantine/lockdown during COVID-19. My personal take on this collection of short anecdotes are random, somewhat memorable moments of my day.
During the pandemic, I lay in bed staring at the sky. At night, the puffy grey clouds would blanket the sky, hiding the stars from the view of my bedroom window. The moon would shimmer from high in the sky, playing hide-and-seek with us as it weaved through the hazy clouds. When it rained, the clouds would swallow the moon whole and light the sky with an ominous silver-grey sheen, and rain would hammer against my window pane like a long-lost friend.
During the pandemic, any short trip to town for groceries felt like a journey. Living in a high-density place like Hong Kong, people were squashed together like sardines. In 7th grade biology we learned about cells, so in my mind’s eye I was looking through a microscope at people in individual cells and everyone’s individual cells were squished and broken and mixing together. As others approached, I would run deranged from people that intruded mine so that it could remain clean, its cell wall and membrane untouched.
During the pandemic, I had days where I felt like I was drowning; days would bleed into each other my 2 by 3 meter room would close in. I grew basil plants on my balcony, and they were just like hydra’s heads; if you snipped the main stem off two new ones would sprout back in its place. Occasionally I would snip off small sections to propagate them, like the one time I grew a plant from a small thai basil cutting from Nha Trang, the vietnamese restaurant in town. Placed in water, they would only take a few days to grow roots and ground themselves but the help I’m looking for to root myself with never comes and I stay drowning.
During the pandemic, I read books. Dr. B from Schachnovelle (the royal game), Theodore Finch from All the Bright Places and Max Vanderburg from The Book Thief and I formed our own little quarantine squad. Dr. B and I counted the books on our bookshelves together, first by color then by author then by compartment. There were 5 testing/practice problem booklets on mine, 54 The Knowledge books, 7 dictionaries of German-English, English-German, Chinese-English, Chinese (simplified), Chinese (traditional), Chinese(simplified)-Chinese(traditional), English. Theodore Finch and I changed the layout of our rooms. We pushed the bed against the far wall and covered half of it with my table, then changed it again to close off half the room with the bed right in front of the door. And every day, Max and I waited. For the tapes on the bookshelf (3 on the top shelf, 5 on the second and 6 on the third), my personal leaning tower of Pisa, to give way, and to taste the freedom of the night sky.
During the pandemic, I shone my phone flashlight at our car windows, erasing all the grime and bird poop and dried water marks and dust and oil and finger smudges from the glass with a cloth. “Your phone screens are the dirtiest things you come in contact with,” my mom reminded us daily, and I wondered how much of that held true for our car windows. Because no matter how much I scrubbed, the grime and bacteria and traces of virus would be back the next day.