a loner in isolation

I don’t keep anything in my pockets.
That was the first thing I noticed,
gosh, back when I still had to move my car.
My chapstick and pens sit on the desk
and my car stays put
except for weekly street sweeping
(though I don’t hear them come by so don’t think I even need to move it).

I don’t smile or see smiles.
Well sometimes in the mirror,
thinking it’ll make me feel better,
but that glass is cracked and distorts my face
so it usually makes me feel deranged.
Kind of like the sound my laughter makes when it breaks the silence.
They’re brief these days,
the chuckles at clever turns of phrase my mind’s concocted.

I don’t shoot worried looks
about the numbers they’ve been reporting,
not to anyone.
Those expressions reflect back to me from the glass I hold.
I realize, being alone,
that I gauge my own perception of the magnitude of all this by others’ emotions.
My tears don’t move in crowds now,
and there are never enough of them to spill from my eyes.

I don’t hold my kids close or read to them before bed.
I don’t come downstairs and sit with you and wonder
about how their world will look
when they are reading stories to our grandchildren,
but I envy, like never before,
Then in the next breath
I rejoice for being free of its worry.

I look out the window and watch people walking together,
pushing strollers.
Across the street I see the couple who lives above the vacant dentist’s office
(this is not voyeuristic,
it’s like hearing the muffled conversation
from my neighbors through the floor
and feeling mild jealousy
because I so long to hear voices that aren’t filtered through floorboards or speakers).

When I adjust the blinds, I see them across Main Street,
sitting in the blue glow of the TV
or standing at the sink doing dishes:
she washes, he dries.
I wash my dishes in the morning.
It used to be with public radio playing.
Now it is in silence
save for the hiss and drip from the coffee maker.

Some days all I want is silence
or maybe now I forget I want anything.
Some days I’m just tired of the futility of having
a machine ask if I’m still there
because they won’t play music to an empty room.
No one thought to tell them we’d be staying in for a while.
The room is never empty.
Am I still there?

I call my parents and ask how they are but
the calls always end up with me talking the
days’ worth of bottled-up not talking.
Thinking aloud the thoughts that hadn’t come to me until they were spoken.
I think our calls were not too much different before all of this
but it feels heavier now,
the distorted weightlessness when we hang up,
and in those moments I am reminded

that I long for someone to be near me
to talk with,
to dance with in a music-filled room,
to wonder about the state of our children’s world,
to keep my perspectives in check,
to take a dish from to be dried,
to smile to.
To smile with.


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