She who laughs last laughs loudest
Updated: Apr 3
On day 55 of quarantine, at exactly 4:56 in the morning, the first alarm sounds. It’s rare that I’m not up before the second one set for 4:57. Just like the 54 days before it, those dulcet chimes drag me out of my dreams and back into a quiet bedroom. I pull my legs out from under the covers as David breathes deeply behind me. After a moment’s pause and total silence while I rock on the edge of the bed, he breathes deeply with a soft snore.
I navigate the dark room with my usual lack of grace. No amount of routine or conditioning can rouse my dexterity before the sun comes up. With a deep thud, I walk into the corner of my closet on my way to the bathroom.
With the last of my morning breath evaporating under the strong mint flavor of my toothpaste, I pull my running clothes off the hanger where I draped them the night before. They hang by the wall-sized window looking out to the Belcorp tower across the street. I peer through the glass and down to the street fifteen stories below, and it’s empty. Curfew ended only five minutes before.
I wind down the stairs of our building in a slow jog, arriving in less than a minute to the ground floor and the opening to our small parking lot. It’s enclosed by eight-foot walls, and I feel secure as I run in endless circles in the space. Last night’s curfew might have ended, but only for essential workers. No sport or recreation can take place on the street during quarantine. I make do with my quiet parking lot.
The sound of routine
Forty minutes later, I’m back upstairs. The wind blows in through the balcony door and rushes down the length of the kitchen, presing powerfully on the front door as I turn to close it softly behind me. It snaps shut instead.
My shoes squeak as I walk from the door to the bedroom, where I like to stretch. It’s the only carpeted room in the apartment. My labored breathing is like the offbeat to David’s steady snores.
I squeak back to the living room, open the mini fridge and reach for my water bottle. The kissing sound from the seal of the refrigerator door covers a muffled snore from the other room. Then comes the soft clap of rubber as I close the door again, the plastic bottle crinkling in my hand as I drink deeply.
Next, breakfast. The whole purpose to my morning run. Back in the kitchen, I open one cabinet for the bread, then the kitchen fridge for the butter. I open a drawer for a butter knife, and within minutes I’m eating in front of the dining room window as the sun comes up. On a day like day 55 of quarantine, when there’s cereal in the cupboard, I even get up to serve myself a bowl—a breakfast helping of “seconds” after my buttered bread. The tink of the spoon accompanies me until the job is done.
It’s time to shower. The glass shower door slides open with rollers that rumble like distant thunder. The hot water feels good, like it did the 54 day before it, and invariably I sigh as I step in and close the door.
Once I’m cleaned up, now fully awake, my coordination finally kicks in. I move back to the kitchen to open new bottles of water, then fill one after the other with the day’s flavor packets. The artificial sugar is my cheap means of jazzing up our water intake for the day. As I elect each packet, I flick it twice to shake the powder to the bottom of the pouch. And after carefully opening them, I pour each mix into a bottle before screwing the cap on and giving it a shake. I move the bottle almost rhythmically as the powder dissolves. The sloshing of the water is as relaxing as the sound of the washing machine on a lazy Saturday.
Day 55 of quarantine, indistinguishable from so many days, has dissolved into the preceding and the next day just like the powder. With this routine, time is as fluid now as the water in my bottle.
Humor strikes in a loud way
David gets up around 8:30 a.m. Day 55 was unadorned with anything even remotely out of the ordinary. Even quarantine is now normal. Hours tick by as I work in the office with only the occasional scratch at the door from Charlotte, our dog, hopeful to lay on the office floor below my feet.
Just a few minutes after 2:00 p.m., I close my computer and head back to the kitchen. It's time for lunch, and I call out to David, who's working in the living room on his laptop. It was the first real interaction we have in the day beyond smiles and greetings as we head from one room to another.
I ask him how his day is going. He tells me, “fine.”
Then he pulls out his cell phone.
David opens the voice memo app on his phone and grins at me. He says, “listen to this.” I listen. He presses “play” on a recording and, as the progress bar quickly advanced to its finish, I delay in appreciating what it is. It sounds like wood snapping in two.
“That’s you in the kitchen each morning at 5:45,” David says.
It becomes clear that it wasn’t me on the recording, rather David with his own take of me opening cabinets as I make breakfast.
I'm still taking in what he said when he presses “play” on the second recording. It's the rapid tink of a spoon against a bowl. “And this is you at 5:50,” he announces. He's grinning continually at this point.
“And this is you at 5:55,” David says as he presses “play” on the third recording. It sounds like thunder rumbling.
I finally catch up with what David had done. In a fit of amusement and embarrassment, I begin to laugh. David’s grin stretches to its breaking point before he begins to laugh with me.
“Then this is you at 6:00,” David insists as he presses “play” a fourth time. This recording captured the violent flapping sound of packets of water flavors. I double over in laughter. Whether it was my embarrassment or the hilarity of his efforts, I felt drunk.
“And here you are at 6:02,” David finishes before pressing “play” on the fifth recording. It's an almost danceable rhythm of shaking water bottles.
All this time, I thought the city was sleeping—including David. Those early-morning, peaceful moments were the soft and silver lining of the storm clouds of a reality trapped behind the bars of quarantine and a world at risk. And yet, on day 55 of lockdown, I’ve been shown how audible every bit of my routine really is.
It was David’s cheeky and risible effort that has me most amused. That time he devoted to his joke will, ironically, do him in tomorrow morning. It might haunt him the morning after that, too. Because now, when I wake up at 4:56, even my efforts to remain quiet will be riddled by giggles as I open cupboards, slide the shower door, and remember.