I’m writing this on Monday night, but by the time you read it, I will have been back in my office for the first time since March 13 (except for the time I briefly ran in, probably mid-April, to grab my office can of Lysol since I was running out at home and couldn’t find more in the stores).
I’m not all that nervous about the exposure –that’s kind of a lie I’m hoping I can make myself believe if I repeat it enough – and I am excited to be back in a regular routine, even if I’m not looking forward to having to wear pants again on a daily basis.
But I’m sort of haunted by how much has happened since I left that Friday 13.5 weeks ago. We learned to home-school. My dad got really sick. My dad recovered somewhat. My older kid became completely fluent in Zoom and Google Hangouts and Houseparty. My younger kid turned 8 and we had a socially distant party in the front yard. We baked a lot of bread. I got used to not hugging anyone and having groceries delivered and wearing a mask everywhere.
When I think back on that last week of work, it’s dripping now with dramatic irony. The funny email I sent to students and staff on Monday (the day the first Louisiana case appeared) about washing your hands, really thinking that alone would be enough to keep us all safe. Having lunch with my dad that Wednesday when my phone kept pinging with different coronavirus-related alerts. A frantic meeting that Thursday about when and if we would close schools. And then that Friday, when I was out at lunch, got the alert about schools, and burst into tears. After sending about 50 different messages over every platform we have, I ran out of my office in a rush, hoping to get to Ruby’s school play, which was having an emergency opening two weeks early. I left everything a complete mess – papers scattered, extension cords exposed and ready to be tripped over, markers and pens all over my desktop. There’s probably still coffee in my mug, left from that morning when I suddenly got too busy to drink it. The calendars are still on March with important information inked on the squares, events that never happened.
That’s what’s waiting for me, probably all covered with a thin layer of dust, and I’m really not ready to face it, not even from behind my fancy monogrammed mask.
Maybe it will feel OK. Maybe it will be just like coming back after Christmas break or a long vacation. And ultimately, I know I’ll get used to it again.
I’ll flip the calendars to June. I’ll put my pens back in the holder. I’ll wash out my mug and stack my papers. I’ll wipe down my desktop and put my laptop back in its docking station.
But right now, the night before, it seems hard to imagine jumping back in again.
My office is still frozen in time. Nothing has changed there. Which makes how much I’ve changed feel all the more jarring.