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  • Writer's pictureLauren Sauer

Portrait of a Pandemic

The morning is the best time. Specifically, waking up and wiping crust from the corner of the eyes, deep breaths and stretches. A few minutes of delusion between snoozed alarms. Then, sitting up straight and finally succumbing to the reality that regardless of what the calendar may say, the date is arbitrary and this is morning #300-something of the "new normal," a phrase that somehow feels both dystopian and Pollyanna.

Feet find slippers. Mouth finds toothbrush. Mirror finds someone who looks familiar, but with longer hair and paler skin. Do an abbreviated version of the grooming routine, minus the fun parts involving shimmery eye shadow and mascara wands.

Then drink something. Drink many things. Start with water that is half last night's nightstand leftovers, half this morning's chilled Brita filter reservoir. Then move on to something hot. Water is boiled in the kettle, half a lemon squeezed into a mug and waiting to be doused in steam. Tablespoon of apple cider vinegar for the gut. Hot lemon water with a vinegar shot. The internet says that's good. It's comforting to do something that's said to be good. The blogs say the vinegar and lemon boost the immune system, and the inner hypochondriac is clinging to that factoid, whether or not it's true. The hot water is good for decongestion. It's important to pair this with minimum two to three cups of coffee in order to effectively cancel out any of those decongesting properties. But doing this ("this" in the grand scheme) without coffee simply wouldn't work.

Hot water. Coffee. Hot water. Cold water. Coffee. Cold water. Hot water. Coffee. Repeat until the body is housing an unnatural amount of liquid and the caffeine jitters kick in. Maybe breakfast is eaten, if the mood strikes. Good, crusty toasted bread. Or some fruit eaten straight from the plastic grocery store clamshell. Or maybe oatmeal. Or maybe nothing until 2 p.m.

Key part of the morning is waking up at least one hour before Things Need To Get Done. There is no longer a commute, or a need to look presentable, but it is still imperative to have some time with oneself before walking the five feet between the bed and the office. This time can be spent drinking the hot lemon water and the coffee by the windowsill in complete silence. The time can also just as easily be spent watching mind-numbingly stupid reality TV from the mid-2000s.

Then it's time to sit at the desk that's been slowly outfitted over the course of a year spent alone. The wireless mouse that was found to immediately be a necessary mere days into working from home. The expensive office chair that took much self-convincing, at the request of a back that is too sore to only be twenty-five. Overall, the makings of a little nook that doesn't know about the legal pads accidentally abandoned in drawers miles away, or the colleagues who once politely engaged in conversation about the weather or some crazy virus threatening to cross the ocean.

Hours spent either in complete silence or in back-to-back virtual conference rooms, with generic phrases about a brighter future and many unknowns tossed with ease like Wiffle balls. Polite smiles and overthinking the use of an exclamation point. When the list is completely crossed through and outside is dusky, step away from the laptop. Resist the urge to immediately crawl into bed. Sometimes the urge isn't resisted, though, because the bed is just right there.

What was the weather like? Check the little screen you get to look at for fun when you're taking a break from the medium-sized screen. Little screen says it was cold out. If the little screen offers a more favorable number, though, maybe go see whether or not that's true.

Walk to the drugstore. Walk to pick up dinner. Walk to the end of the street and back, if that's all there is to do. These outings do need a soundtrack, which is why wireless earbuds are always within immediate reach. The soundtrack could be Joni Mitchell and her folksy introspective contemporaries, or could be more modern pop where the instrumentation is bright and computerized but the lyrics are like "I'm the most powerful woman alive and if a man even looks at me I'll burn his house down."

Once the lists are done and the cat is fed and the body is tired, it's time to rest. Do a nighttime version of the grooming regime, which includes pouring a tall glass of water that will be half-drank now, and half mixed with cold Brita filter water the next morning. The next morning: In theory, different, but in practice more of the same. Not in a depressing, pessimistic, doomsday type of way. Just in a "This is day #300-something of the 'new normal'" type of way.


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