A Quarantine Dream.
July 11, 2020. 3:09AM.
Your husband’s breath on the ceiling, dancing with the fan above. You wonder the last time you were still in the darkness.
His arms now around you, breath of the back of your neck.
If you turned around, would you recognize him?
It’s been years since you had the energy to reflect on your day while you were awake.
America shook you violently until you daydreamed of six figures and impulse purchases at TJ Maxx. Shook you until you believed in the daily investment and contribution to capitalism. Until you held the American Dream so close to your heart that you ignored your calloused hands as a reminder.
The wooden ladder you continue to climb may leave your hands splintered and soul gory.
There was always something to do, take care of, an activity, a distraction, anything, and nothing.
The relationship with your husband. Friendships. Work. The laundry, dog, last minute homework, cooking, cleaning. Repeat. That dishwasher needed to be unloaded. What’s for dinner tonight?
There was always misplaced time, a lost item. The clocks on your wall and in your pocket tick with wild abandon. Your children play freeze tag, yet you wish for the same.
This morning, you rode bikes in the middle of street with your children. The air felt softer on your face than it did when you were younger.
How could that be?
Last night you watched the sunset with your husband, as God Herself played with the heavens. For the first time in years, you held your husband’s hand and just sat there. When he asked what you saw in the clouds, you squeezed his hand a little tighter.
This was a life you dreamed of. At rushed lunch dates with childhood friends and old roommates, you all grasp at this feeling, but someone was having a kid, there was a gift to buy, a card to sign. When was the last time you listened to a friend and heard what they were saying?
You were desperate for anything that would preclude you from the joining another day of engaging in distraction, from living in the American Autopilot Autocracy. This was it.
But when you slowed down, did you like what you saw?
You found that you actually didn’t know your children that well.
The youngest one was much more interested in nature than before, the middle was different than how you remembered her to be, and the oldest actually wanted your advice.
You spend the mornings outside with the three of them, walking in the middle of streets, on hiking trails in the middle of nowhere. Skipping rocks on the lake. There was no rush to return home to an unnecessary Zoom conference call, or what a few employers wanted to call the new normal.
During your lunch break on Wednesday, your youngest grabbed your hand, excitedly pulling you out of the back door and into the woods behind the house. The water touched the sky. You sat with your baby boy in the tall grass, in awe.
How long had you lived in this home, to not know what stretched beyond your own backyard?
You no longer warned your children of the oncoming vehicle, asked about homework assignments, or rushed to scold them. Surely, you and your husband had already given them tools and armor such as confidence, kindness, and the ability to watch their back.
You just let them be. You wondered what it would be like to experience this as a child. When they talked, you sat there and listened. There was no concern for later or the chores and homework that need to be “completed.” The checklist that needed an extra mark with a blue ballpoint pen was no longer important.
On Thursday, the youngest knocked over a glass of milk. Almond milk running across the countertops, he started to cry and apologize, but you just grabbed his hand, smiled, and said, “it’s okay.”
Your son took a deep breath, stopped crying, and grabbed three paper towels.
Normally, you’d tell him he needed to use the dishcloth.
Who was this woman? That concern and worry that you regularly carried in your back pocket was gone. This was the woman that you always wanted to be.
You noticed that all of the cars in the neighborhood were stationary. Neighbors you didn’t know waved hello.
On Friday, a friend phoned to ask if your family had enough food to eat. A few days later, you will return the favor.
If you didn’t have money and your neighbor didn’t either, what did that make the two of you, except human?
In the mornings, your husband regularly smiles at you from across the kitchen table, surrounded by paperwork, a laptop, and a coffee mug with a broken handle.
At dinner, he no longer mentions work to you, nor you to him.
In bed at night, your breath on the ceiling, you wonder- what was this American Dream? You studied, worked hard, and then landed a career job. You put your head down to focus on your career, to smash through that glass ceiling, and arrive at that corner office.
But at what cost?
You met the love of your life, only to have three children with him, and not know what his breath sounds like on your shared pillows in the middle of the night.
What a shame.
Had you become so involved in a life so insignificant that you forgot what matters?
Was work truly as important as what we made it to be?
Did you need to tap the steering wheel and forcefully listen to a podcast during the 45-minute commute to the office, only to arrive and realize you left your lunch at home? There was the work day, the babysitting and encouraging the clock to befriend 5:00pm, the children that needed to be picked up from extracurricular activities.
With children learning from home and parents on laptops, you learned that you never needed a 40-hour work week. The children could have learned from home before. You never needed weekends so full of movement that you never remembered those two days when someone asked on Monday morning.
Now, your husband makes a pot of coffee for you every morning, but this time around you taste the coffee on your taste buds.
The American Dream. This idea that you would work hard to obtain everything that you never had, another purchase to fill that gaping hole, that void where you were not loved enough as a child, a scratch on an imaginary checklist.
With every achievement accomplished, you simply added another. There was no getting ahead in this never-ending game that America created. You played along, skillfully calculating your final equation without any variable of intention.
How many years had you wasted?
You realized that you were not your job, your house, your car, your income. Did the car you drove matter if the vehicle never left the driveway, the parking lot? If you needed anything from the store, you had to seriously consider if it was even worth it.
Anything forgotten, inaccessible, and/ or unaffordable was reinvented at home.
Life now lacked distraction, the thrill of meeting new people, so you began to reevaluate a few friendships, and hold your true friends closer to your heart than before.
In person, the only faces you saw completely were those you lived with. You found yourself leaning on strangers, neighbors, and friends, taking the time to check in on others.
You’d never done this before.
You wore the same blue jeans, one of your husband’s t-shirts, and tied up your curly afro with a scarf in the morning.
And every night, you made a point to stay awake long enough to listen to your husband’s breath on the ceiling.