Shelter in Place Schedule

Christine Sneed

7 AM Rise from bed in a sunny mood

7:15 Drink coffee from home-roasted beans, painstakingly ground by hand with Japanese-engineered grinder while listening to northern mockingbird sing from the top of a nearby lemon tree.

7:20 Feel upsurge in mood after caffeine hit and read a New Yorker profile of a hearing impaired beekeeper

7:40 Feel good mood wane as neighbor starts blasting Meatloaf CD through the wall

7:43 Pound on wall

7:48 Pound on wall again

7:52 Pound on wall a third time while screaming

7:55 Go outside for exercise with face mask and gloves

8:02 Accidentally step on dog shit while reading Twitter feed on phone

8:03 Frantically wipe shoe against closest driveway while surreptitiously glancing at house’s front windows to make sure no one is watching

8:42 Return home and notice smell of dog shit still clinging to violated shoe

8:45 Finish disinfecting shoe with hot water and soap

8:46 Try to remember if at any point during exercise you touched your face

8:48 Google latest infection numbers for zip code

8:50 Feel blood pressure spike as neighbor begins blasting Journey’s greatest hits CD on the other side of the wall

8:53 Leave apartment to confront neighbor

8:53:23 Return to apartment to retrieve mask and gloves

8:54 Wash hands before putting on mask and gloves

8:55 Go back into the hall and pound on neighbor’s door

8:56 Argue with neighbor about loud music through closed door

8:57 Threaten to break down neighbor’s door and bludgeon him if he doesn’t turn music down

8:58 Return home with pulse racing and blood pressure dangerously elevated

9:00 Indulge in revenge fantasies that involve throwing a cream pie in neighbor’s stupid, unshaven face and dumping large pots of beef stew onto his head when he opens his door and steps into the hall—if only you had the engineering skills and the supplies needed to carry it off.

9:47 Fall asleep on sofa while watching BoJack Horseman on phone

11:02 Awaken on sofa when phone slides off chest and hits the floor with a smack

11:15 Shower

11:30 Enter Zoom meeting for job; pretend to be happy to see everyone; feel angry when Sandra in marketing only uses audio. Everyone else is using video despite needing haircuts and closer shaves and better sleep. Feel a further surge of resentment when Sandra laughingly pretends to be suffering from conjunctivitis and a migraine, which has caused dark circles to form beneath her purportedly red, watery eyes, therefore making her reluctant to use video in the meeting. Feel even more resentful when your boss tells Sandra she can leave the meeting if she really isn’t feeling well and Sandra says she greatly appreciates your boss’s kindness. She really should call her doctor, she supposes, and now is probably a good time to try him.

1:20 PM Leave Zoom meeting ten minutes early by claiming you have to take your dog out. When someone asks when you got a dog, and aren’t you allergic?, lie and say you’re watching a very sick neighbor’s dog.

1:21 Open a bag of potato chips and eat half of it while deciding if you have the energy to make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.

1:26 Eat peanut butter from the jar while discovering the jelly is almost gone and is beaded with sugar crystals that at first glance you worry might be mold.

1:42 Look at work email and begin answering deeply tedious messages from clients

1:48 Pound on wall after neighbor starts blasting Ted Nugent CD

1:52 Pound on wall again

1:55 Charge into hall without mask or gloves and bruise shoulder while battering it against neighbor’s door.

1:56 Back off when shirtless neighbor throws open door and stares at you with fists balled at his sides. He is in better shape than you previously realized, and on his left pectoral you notice a large tattoo of the Looney Tunes’ Tasmanian devil. Tell neighbor in a stern but quavering voice that you were in the Iraq War and suffer from PTSD and if he doesn’t turn down his music, you will find the grenade you smuggled back from Mosul and throw it into his fucking apartment and destroy his fucking stereo. Neighbor blinks at you and takes a step back and politely shuts the door in your face.

1:57 Return to your apartment somewhat shaken to discover the music has been turned down. Subsequently prepare for another Zoom meeting, this one with a client in Nova Scotia.

2:42 Discover the northern mockingbird has returned to the lemon tree and is singing very, very loudly, so loudly and stridently that your client can hear it and wonders if you might perhaps move to another room to continue the conference.

2:44 Carry your laptop into the kitchen. The client announces with a look of contrition that he can still hear the bird.

2:45 Take your laptop into the bathroom and shut the door. The client cannot hear the bird any longer although you sense that he is taken aback by the rumpled, mildewing towel hanging askew over the shower curtain rod. You hastily rip down the towel and throw it on the floor, apologizing. The client blinks several times before continuing with his list of stipulations for the sale you are negotiating.

3:35 Zoom with your boss who is eating egg foo young from a takeout container while you discuss your Nova Scotia-based client’s demands.

4:02 Explain to your boss why the Nova Scotia-based client is emailing her about the need, moving forward, for soundproof meeting rooms.

4:34 Return to answering tedious work emails.

4:59 Notice Northern mockingbird has returned to the zenith of the lemon tree

5:02 Notice Northern mockingbird has several tunes it cycles through, all at top volume

7:28 Wonder how many hours in a row a Northern mockingbird can keep singing. Is there a Guinness Book of World Records for such things, i.e. an animal kingdom version?

8:35 Wonder if it would be permissible, if you had a slingshot, to aim for a branch close to the Northern mockingbird, just to shake it up a little? No harm meant, just a good scare. You love birds, you really do, and they are by and large beautiful and innocent creatures, although one or two birds you know of really have no sense of decency. You remember reading an article about the cowbird, a reprehensible bird which sneaks its eggs into the nests of other birds after forcing out the eggs of the hapless birds who are the nests’ rightful owners. These poor, duped birds sit on the cowbird eggs until they hatch into cowbird babies, and then, as you can well imagine, the dimwitted birds are very surprised and disappointed when they realize they have just spent weeks sitting on the eggs of another bird.

9:04 Fall asleep watching a Dave Matthews Band concert from 1997 on your phone

2:19 AM Jolt awake when the Northern mockingbird starts cycling through its repertoire of tunes from the top of the lemon tree

2:20 Stumble out to the balcony and listen to the bird under the stars, wondering if to the west that is Venus or an exceedingly bright satellite. Wonder how much longer you will have to live like this. Lie down on the cold cement floor of your balcony and tell yourself you are lucky to be where you are. Remind yourself that when all this is over, you will be a better person. You will never again forget what it’s like to have the freedom and privilege to go somewhere, anywhere, you would like to go. When the mockingbird finally grows quiet, you wonder what it thinks about you and everyone else sitting dumbly inside your homes, complaining about every last thing, including birdsong.

Christine Sneed is the author of the novels Paris, He Said and Little Known Facts, and the story collections Portraits of a Few of the People I’ve Made Cry and The Virginity of Famous Men (Bloomsbury USA & UK). 

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