I reach out for the door and my husband reminds me
not to touch the handle with my skin,
to use the sleeve of my jacket instead.
He reminds me a little sharply, as though I haven’t been living through this
right alongside of him, as if I don’t understand
how serious this all is, I do, I do.
When we get home I wash my hands over and over again, just in case
and I don’t hear him washing his hands but I don’t feel like getting yelled at
everything has to get scrubbed down before we put it away
the beer cans, the container of cream cheese
the whole outside plastic wrapper of the loaf of white bread
I don’t know how long I can keep living this way.
Astronauts send us notes on how to survive being quarantined
in our own homes, post lists of things one can do
to make the time pass less painfully, how we should use this as an opportunity
to learn a new language, practice and master an instrument
develop new skills. But they’re just astronauts
and none of this is helpful to anyone
who has spent a winter with their face pressed against the glass
waiting for spring.
The days stretch and fill with puzzles and arguments and coloring books
angry games of chess that never end properly
and still those astronauts
send notes of encouragement from their stations thousands of miles away
taunt us with pictures of the Earth, and how clean the air has become
what it looks like when most of the smog has been blown away
and when half of the lights on the surface of the planet have gone out.
Holly Day’s writing has recently appeared in Analog SF, The Hong Kong Review, and Appalachian Journal, and her recent book publications include Music Composition for Dummies, The Tooth is the Largest Organ in the Human Body, and Bound in Ice. She teaches creative writing at The Loft Literary Center in Minneapolis and Hugo House in Seattle.