Quarantine Tales Week 3

We recognize that this time has impacted so many people, industries, and families. On the plus side, we’re so happy you’re all taking this time to create – we’re honored to publish these works.

Quarantine Tales Week 3

Stan -  Shelter-in-place by Harvey Castro

Stan – Shelter-in-place by Harvey Castro

Find more from Harvey on their website and Instagram

The Wind by Jennifer Corbet

the wind gouges dark paths

into snow-blanketed hills

i’m starting to know

people who have died

parties blind themselves

to tsunami truths

while partiers party on blindly

through vacant wind-swept plazas

if I had a fiddle would I choose

to play while Rome burned?

i’m starting to know

people who have died

surreal becomes real while

i shelter in paradise counting

jars and paper rolls and cringing

at the latest gleeful quarantini

recipe glowing in blue

the wind creeps against the soffits

looking for chinks in my armor

respiring gusts taunt me

i’m starting to know

people who have died

the wind gouges dark paths

into snow-blanketed hills

The Medium by Laurel Doud

Retirement To-Do List

Sign up for Medicare 

Meet with HR and pension provider

Call financial guy 

Consult medium 


Having attained my 65th year, I’ve decided it’s time to retire. After nearly 45 years as a librarian, it’s time for someone younger and more enthusiastic to fill the job. But I’m also nervous—about finances, of course, but even more, about me. If I’m not a librarian anymore, who am I? How much of my identity, self-esteem, and even self-confidence resides in, “I’m a full-time librarian?”

On a friend’s recommendation, I decide to contact a medium. I sign up for a Life Reading—as opposed to a Spirit Reading—that, according to the medium’s website, will focus on my personal journey through my present and future as it pertains to my “career, finances, relationships, and health.” Just what I need.

I watch a couple of the medium’s Youtube videos—readings in front of large audiences and in her office. I’m surprised she’s so young and, well, so normal looking. No turban, no bangles, no multi-colored skirt. She’s a fashionably dressed woman in her thirties with long auburn hair and clear blue eyes in a pretty heart-shaped face, a charming beauty mark above her upper lip. Her office features no beaded curtains or crystal ball. Instead, she is framed by a tall shelf of books. I imagine titles on meditation, yoga, psychology, paranormal phenomena, but she points out some of the larger tomes. “Anatomy and physiology. I was pre-med at UCLA. Medium wasn’t on my guidance counselor’s list.” She laughs. I like her and I haven’t even talked to her yet.

In the video, she sits across from her client, a box of tissue close at hand on a small side table. The set-up reminds me of a therapy session and, in fact, the medium confesses that she often tells people she’s a grief counselor. That probably kills any follow-up questions.

As I wait for her call on an early winter’s day, I’m anxious and not quite sure why. This has always been for a lark. The phone rings at the appointed time and she explains she’s a medium first and a psychic second. “Every medium is a psychic,” she says, “but not every psychic is a medium. A medium is someone who translates for the dead.”

For my reading, she will focus on what’s being created in my life, what’s in progress, as opposed to what has been. “Now I’m going to take a moment to really hone in on your vibrational pattern, your radio station as it were.”

I stifle a guffaw as I hear her take a deep calming breath and silence flows down the phone line. In my mind’s eye, her eyes are closed, a flickering sandalwood candle by her side. As she begins to talk, I imagine her gesturing with her hands, creating eddies of fragrance with the movement. 

Her initial observations, as any good librarian would know, could have been retrieved from any decent web search. 

“There’s a lot of creativity around you. You create stories for yourself and, by creating these stories, you manifest a good mind space. You have a deep fantasy life. You’re working on a project now, a novel perhaps? Do you see that?” 

My novel was published by Little Brown two decades ago, but it pops up immediately if you google my name, often from “fantastic fiction” sites, and I’ve been working on various projects since then.

“You live tucked away, removed from the city, and I feel this is purposeful, intentional. You like your space. Do you see that?” 

My address is on the form I filled out and Google Maps can fill in the rest.

But then she says, “You have rubber boots, shoes you wear when you go outside, by your back door. Do you see that?”

Holy cow, I didn’t know Google Earth could zoom in so close, because I do indeed see a pair of rubber boots when I look out my back door. I wear them daily to take the dogs out. Suddenly, I feel exposed, spied upon. My shoulders hunch.

As I’m still reeling from the boots comment, she informs me that my deceased mother has apparently joined the session. I didn’t ask for a Spirit reading and I’m strangely affronted.

“She’s brought a dog with her. A dog of yours. A dog whose ashes you still have in your house. Do you see that?”

I feel prickles at the nape of my neck. On my wrist is a bracelet whose core is filled with the remains of Oberon, the dog of my heart.

Now she mutters, Yes, thank you, and I’m confused. Who she talking to? “Your mother says she just wants to be a part of this. She wants to support you in this. You and she had a nice relationship. It feels good.”

Despite my best efforts, tears spring into my eyes and I scrabble about for a tissue. After a long illness, my mother died ugly and I watched her gasp for what seemed an eternity, her eyes bulging in their sockets, her skin turning mottled. When she was gone, the only thing I felt was relief—for her and for me. I was glad she was dead, a guilt I’ve carried for twenty years. My heart expands at the possibility that my mother, unbidden, has entered our session to support me, to let me know that I am forgiven. 

I decide then that the medium might have something to say to me that I want to hear. My shoulders relax.

“You’re very independent,” she says. “Very self-sufficient. Very private. Do you see that?”

Again, she’s right. As retirement approaches, I’ve been worrying about this. Will I end up being a recluse? Will my so-called independence become a barrier between me and others? Because my long-held dream is to be able to say in retirement, “I’m a full-time writer.” I’m going through a dry spell (well, honestly, a California drought), but I want to be published again. Badly. I want an audience and I’m getting discouraged. So many barriers keep popping up and I want to know whether I’m just wasting my time. Maybe I should take up something new. Woodworking? Painting?

“In your isolation, you will create more stories that will connect you to others,” she says, but then advises me to refocus on the craft, to reconnect with the joy of writing. At once, I’m back in school, the creative writing teacher going on and on about writing for yourself. But my rational voice says, does that make the advice any less true? Just keep writing. Writing. Writing

“But,” she says and, for some reason, my heart skitters. “You haven’t written the project yet that’s going to get published. So you need new projects, new writing.”

I groan. I can’t help it. Have the last twenty years been for naught?

She’s silent for a moment and, when she speaks, it’s almost a rebuke. “I feel that you have this belief that you’re not going to live much longer. You’ve been putting deadlines on your life because you think you don’t have much more time, but that’s not factual. And now those deadlines have become limitations.”

It’s absolutely true. As a virtual clone of my mother, who died in her seventies, I’ve always felt that was my destiny too.

“You can make that happen, of course, but you needn’t.” After a pause, she murmurs again, Okay, thank you, and continues, “You should write something shorter than novels. They would like you to focus on essays.”

I groan louder. I’m not good at essays.

“Yes, but they’re pushing it.”

It isn’t until later, when I listen to the recording, that I realize I didn’t pick up on the theyThey would like me to focus on essays. They’re pushing it. Damn! What if she was translating for great essayists like Virginia Woolf or C.S. Lewis or Nora Ephron and I missed it?

“You’re better at essays than you think you are,” she tells me. “And what I’m seeing is that you would like your work to be seen by an audience which will then create more inspiration for you to work more.”

Got that right.

“You have a very strong life force,” she continues. “I see you living for at least two more decades. At least two more. You’ll have lots to write about.”

I actually haven’t planned to live that long. I told my financial guy not to forecast a sustainable income beyond the age of 75. Guess some adjustments need to be made. I start to look forward to the day I can trade librarian for full-time writer.

A mere couple of months later, though, the coronavirus walks in and the world stops. I’ve been working from home since then, teaching students online how to build their research statements and use databases. As the cases of Covid-19 increase dramatically, I recall another of the medium’s predictions. “Someone will be coming to live with you for two or three months. It’s not permanent, but it’s also not a quick visit.”

At the time I thought she meant a real person, but now I wonder, could it be a metaphorical one, this spectral pandemic that shrouds our world? It feels solid enough to be a someone.

So like many who’ve had to rethink their lives, I’ve had to rethink my retirement plans—I have postponed it to 2021. I have a job and I’m good at it. I’m damned lucky. My identity crisis can wait. I can work and still write. After all, I’ve done it for decades. If I’m going to live another 20 years, I probably should be a bit more fiscally-responsible. I should be the ant, not the grasshopper now.

But being an ant is no fun and I’m trying to find other silver-linings in this decision. My son-in-law gave me one recently, “You didn’t want to go out with a whimper this year.” 

It’s true. No graduation or retirement ceremonies. No lunch with the college president and my fellow retirees. No goodbye parties with my co-workers. 

“Next year you can go out with a bang.”

Knock on wood.

I’m not a superstitious person or anything—well, maybe a tad bit—but when I saw a penny on the road yesterday, I picked it up. See a penny, pick it up, all the day you’ll have good luck

I can always use the luck, but if I live as long as the medium says, I may need the coin.

Oh, and guess what, last night my son called and asked if he and his family could move in with us for two to three months in the fall. Hmmm

Life in Black and White by Tisha Maria Mendes

Life in Black and White by Tisha Maria Mendes

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city park, spring 2020 by M. Shane Pruett

supply hoarding

fear of a pandemic

gone viral

walking around in bubbles

six feet of room to breathe

police presence

out to protect the public

from inside closed cars

social distancing

more awkward than normal

to say hello

a vagrant couple in rags

searches empty trash cans


two tiny birds build

a hidden nest

Find more from Pruett on Twitter

Darkness Fallen by Paul Ilechko

There was much drinking   in that brief age   before 

the darkness fell     you could hear the wine as it sloshed 


inside the bottles      could smell the burning sugar of

the whiskey   before its edge was taken   by a sweet or bitter 


mixer    and this   then  was the last that we remember   

a sign of joyfulness     before the darkness fell


     *     *     *     *     *     *     *


these days     we are torn apart     each one of us  

a separate entity     locked inside the punishment 


chamber of our knowledge     wishing for the comfort

and embrace of the communal flame     as we cower 


in the depth of the deepening shadow that spreads 

across the land     as darkness falls


     *     *     *     *     *     *     *


the privileged are seen to languish   languid     safe

inside their cellared mansions    their existence 


a rebuke to the metal screams of urban breakdown

as transport leaves the rails of safely managed movement


a collapsing of the underlying scaffolding     a sinking 

into graveyard meditations   beneath the falling darkness 


     *     *     *     *     *     *     *


will there be a morning for us?     it’s all we live for now     a dream 

of light     of birds that sing and swoop across the sky’s facade     


a blueness barely recollected     as we sink into the frightful  

quagmire of our churning minds     without the choice of flight 


all that remains is fear of this ongoing night    how far away 

is dawn   for all of us inside the time of darkness fallen.

Find more from Paul on Facebook

Empty Streets by Janet Powers

It’s long past midnight and

we have been locked down

for weeks. The streets are empty,

but traffic lights go on changing,

green to yellow, then red. again

to green; the seconds count

down endlessly in orange for

invisible pedestrians asleep

in their beds or in makeshift

graves, pressed into service,

for victims no one has time

to identify. But we know

the killer, stalking the planet,

wearing a spiked crown

virus dictating who will live

and who will die, crueler

than any ruler ever born,

terrorist with no care for

collateral damage, mowing

down millions in a single day.

The dog and I walk on

Together, not quite alone

in an apocalyptic night.

Soft moonglow sifts through

clouds gathering for another

April shower, bringing drink

to a world thirsty for life.

Glass Cube Abstract-1 by Catherine Roberts Leach

Glass Cube Abstract-1 by Catherine Roberts Leach

Find more on Catherine’s website

Antidote by Laura Sminchak


on an Easter

pandemic Sunday,

timid not triumphant,

an ailing alleluia

this year.


All of us waiting ripe for 

resurrection of the


personal calendar.


In time,

repentance.  I

recall only

blankly baking cake

on a lark,

three layers and

your three years.


Darling dove.

Earth is solid under you,

every face friendly.

Like me,

when airplanes

did not crash into buildings

on purpose.


Tittering sweetly

my sing song sparrow,

I soak in your sound

and grins unburdened

by grief,

chubby arms

smeared sticky with

pink buttercream.



A forgettable number

but for this interruption, a

heavy, hallowed stillness.



Made whole,


Notice to a Human Construct by Stephen Ground

aggressive ticks of shaded faces

cling/puddling/an ancient idea

to know the unknowable/systems

built by men to study/magnify like

complicated corpses till they decide

how to convince others and themselves

of the logic/exerting control over tadpoles

afraid their tank is an ocean though it

should be and could be if they

held their breath and puffed into

frogs/out-hopped the sixty and

sixty and twenty four seven/three

sixty five plus one every four/forgot

intersecting lines notched by kings and

those who serve them/erased/rearranged

as it serves them.

Find more from Stephen on Twitter and their website

All The Mothers Have Died by Elizabeth Bolton

In the morning there was a moon promised,

a pink one, named for the flowers that would thrive beneath it.


I woke and there was mist, sky,

streetlamp light on buzzcut April lawns

and shadows of haunted trees,

gaunt with recent death,

wet with birth,

arms fallen across mud-rooted green and

fingers stretched to touch

fronts of houses


but no moon. No pink moon. 


And still I felt the sky’s

terrified, somber pregnancy

making its futile birth plans,

orphaned, loved by All the Gods and

grimly: prepared to mother itself. 

Find more from Elizabeth on Twitter

I Want to Get Out by Bill Rugg

quarantine tales

falling off rails

invaded by thoughts

stomach in knots

my own disbelief

reliving my grief

taking more breaks

making mistakes

trying to write

losing that fight

brain feeling pressed

don’t like to get dressed

waves of depression

sadness in session

not doing laundry

stuck in a quandary

is this where we die

is it ok to cry?

i don’t like it here

all covered in fear

becoming lazy

drenched in crazy

everyone dying

people are lying

i want to get out

it’s a one-sided rout

i have so much doubt

this is my shout.

Find more from Bill on Instagram

A Poet’s Prayer, by Brittney Walker-Zaleski

Dear God,


Mover of lips and hands, 

Director of eyes and ears, 

Plucker of vocal cords and heartstrings

Giver of life and senses…


Please have mercy on the poet.

For the serenity prayer,

although written by a colleague, 

–whose intentions were great, I’m sure–

does not quite suffice in this moment.


For You and I both know a serene poet 

is a dead poet.


And I am not ready to die.


And if I accept everything that I cannot change,

and change everything that I cannot accept…


there would be no reason to write.


You have granted me enough wisdom

to know 

that I must accept

that there will always 

be a reason to write…


And this…

I cannot change.


I give thanks for there always 

being a reason.


A reason.


            A reason


                        A reason.


You see, the reasons accumulate after awhile.


Reasons to write,

joyful and sad,

weigh the same to the poet


and we collect them 

one by one 

filling up our buckets

like children gathering rocks on a beach






until the buckets become

too heavy to drag through the sand.


And so we begin to fill our pockets…


Please have mercy on the poet,

for our pockets are bulging at the seams.


Please grant us the wisdom to know

which reasons to leave on the shore,

which reasons to cast back into the water,

and which reasons to keep as paperweights

for our desks. 



Find more from Brittany on Instagram

On Eating In the Time of COVID-19 by Katie Bowers

It isn’t just the way softened butter smoothes and fluffs when beaten with powdered sugar — a thick spoonful of icing creamed against your tongue. 

Or even the way a loaf of bread crisps at the bottom — the crunchy bite a contrast to the inside-warm softness pressed to your lips.

It’s certainly not just about the strawberry slices lined up along the pie crust, waiting to be covered with melted sugar and, later, a dollop of cream — the slightly tart fruit tingling the back of your mouth. 

The written recipe. The preparation. The process. The waiting: 

It’s all to pass the hours, to make the evening seem special — serving up a slice of pie to your family after hours upon hours together. 

It is the act of putting food into your mouth. 

It’s the comfort you’ve always turned to — covering yourself in quilts made of recipe cards.  

It’s the mindless emptying of a box of Wheat Thins and Cheez-its; it’s shoving two Ho-hos into your mouth while making spicy orange chicken meatballs, Thai jasmine rice, and honey-soy vegetables; it’s spoonful after spoonful of peanut butter.  

It’s that the cooking and the baking distract from the fact that you’re a slave to anything you can put in your mouth and chew — anything that gives you a surge of relief and pleasure. 

Find more from Katie on Instagram

The Pool by Erin Riley

The red-bricked corner block next to the pool. The pool where, for years, late at night I took myself to escape days spent supporting other people. A lane to myself, I would glide, up and down, with only numbers in my head. Swimming, not drowning, made beautiful. Leaving the pool I would look to the red-bricked corner block – its long windows like eyes. A dull pink illuminating the room of someone I didn’t know. I was obsessed with the red brick corner block with its lights and windows for eyes. As if alive and warmly waiting for me after my nights at the pool. I would gaze up into its soft face as I climbed into my car. I would say to myself: one day I’ll live there. My fantasy second home by the pool. 

And then I fell in love with you. You who lives in the red bricked corner block with its windows like eyes.

Before this virus found us, before this new life skirting the edges of grief, I lived between my apartment and our apartment by the pool. We spent Thursdays to Mondays making a life here. I took the oversized Monstera down from the top shelf at work and it now lives in our bedroom where every few weeks you would gently point out its unfurling baby leaves. On Fridays we would put on our exercise clothes and drive to our gym to do pump class with the teacher in bright pink who we named Maggie Gyllenhaal. Going to the gym with a partner was a line I never thought I’d cross. Though with you, anything is possible.

We cooked in our small corner kitchen and read our books on the golden couch in silence and sometimes we’d raise our heads and let our eyes speak the words we don’t have. On Saturdays I would take our coffee cups to the café where the barista knew the coffees for each cup. I would bring them back and place them on the bedside table and I would put my inside pants back on and climb back into the warmth of your arms.

For three Saturdays now, things have not been the same. Eyes glues to the news, we mourn something that is coming for us. And, so, we retreated into the red brick corner block with its windows like eyes. Into the fantasy second home by the pool. From the bedroom window, people continued to spill in and out of the pool as if immune to the news but not to what is coming. Anger filled us. Fear filled us. 

Your eyes, red, brimming with tears, grieving losses not yet here.

I make the coffees now. I know the coffees for each cup. The monstera, still, continues to unfurl. We don our exercise clothes and slide the golden couch out of the way, press play, and dream of when the world will be ours again.

 Find more from Erin on Twitter and Instagram

Corona Calm by Jay Dermer

I used to be impressed by certain people

back when I was less uncertain

of what gifts would be delivered at my door, 

of what trinkets I would have to wrap


for tomorrow’s shipment to the 3-5 day lands 

where those people live, those people who left me 

in a state of lost impression.

I feel pushed in, tired. 


My typewriter’s keys are sore

and not from overuse. 

I planted my optimism in endless

glorious fields for bountiful golden wheat 


and instead bloomed the empty bourbon bottle

broken & browned.

Tomorrow was a citrusy challenge,

today is its shriveled peel


shrunken by yesterday’s sun

which I know will come up tomorrow

but surely not for me. 

I can see its rays eavesdropping 


on my living room conversation

and pleading I am wrong. 


And maybe I am. 

Maybe I am. 

Social Distancing by Ruben van Gogh

Social Distancing by Ruben van Gogh

Find more on Ruben’s Website and Instagram

Alas by Erich von Hungen

Thus, the teacher.

“Thus,” he said, 

breaking the chalk

against the blackboard

and thus, squeaking it.

Distracted heads looked up 

but the class bell rang

and thus, they got up and left.


“Thus,” the politician

struck the podium with his fist,

his notes and purpose

tumbling to the floor.


“Thus,” the art critic

sucked in a breath 

through his teeth 

and stopped,

reached out a finger,

touched the piece

as if to find his way.


“Thus, thus,” the preacher.

“Thus, the verse.”

“Thus, the cleansing.” 

“Thus, the worst.”


Thus in roses, 

the eulogy at the cemetery ended,

and thus, the grave was closed 

with dirt and flowers.


“Thus,” the scientist

sunk forward with relief.


“Thus,” the child

handed to the mother 

in her white, clean bed.

“Thus,” against her heart and head.


“Thus,” the new house.

“Thus,” the salesman and the agent.

“Thus,” the car repair and the mechanic.

“Thus,” the bill.

“Thus,” the summons.

“Thus,” the court’s decision.

“Thus,” the diagnosis — finally, finally.

“Thus,” the beginning to each thing.

“Thus,” its ending.

“Thus the virus — alas, alas.”

Find more for Erich on Youtube and Twitter

Glitter Storm by Jane Dabate featuring Sofia Carollo

Glitter Storm by Jane Dabate featuring Sofia Carollo

Find more from Jane on Instagram

Staying Healthy, Staying Sane by Grant Armstrong


Stepping outside the world sits quietly 

Not a cricket, and most of the lights are dim

No moon visible and no dogs barking


This self-isolation, self-distancing has its effects

And the mental and economic toll will linger


I even long to hear a car door shut

I even long to hear a cop car sing 


In the morning

Stepping outside the world sits quietly 

I guess I will wait for the postal employee

To bring me news and a sense of normalcy 

Escaping Lockdown by Jim Ross

Since the lockdown, Brookside Gardens with its looping trails, hyacinth and tulip beds, and flowering trees spread out over 50 acres has been drawing more people than ever, including people who bring dogs, children on scooters, and fancy picnics even though the posted signs say these are all forbidden.  My bet is that for many of them, like me, this is their one outing of the day, the walking break sanctioned under lockdown. As people pass or converge on the paths head-on, social distancing can become difficult.  Sometimes, old couples or mothers pushing strollers suddenly jump off the path to expand the walking space and keep a safe distance away.   People are exceptionally friendly, though, and offer quick hellos as they make eye contact and speed by.   

I went today even though it was raining lightly because walking at Brookside is my daily ritual.  I began long before the lockdown.  I’m a veteran walker here, not just a homebound desperado seeking escape from obsessive thoughts about COVID and whether masks make us safer.  I’m one of those desperados too, but I had prior experience before becoming one.  Because it was raining, hardly anybody else was there.  I had the park almost to myself.  That meant I didn’t have to push myself and I could stop at will to take pictures if a weeping cherry, the roots of a cypress tree, or a sheltered heron caught my attention. 

As I completed the first loop, which ought to take 13 minutes but with pictures in the rain takes longer, I was about to cross a bridge that takes me 16 strides.  To my right I saw the smile of a tall black woman, probably mid-30s, wearing an Army-green hooded rain jacket.  Her smile gave me a feeling of completeness.   She turned and said, “Hi.”  Her “hi” was different from most.  As people walk the park’s pathways, their hi’s feel more like “hi-byes,” more like departures than arrivals.  But her “hi” felt more like for a moment we paused and recognized each other in our solitariness.   She crossed the bridge ahead of me, probably getting across in 12 strides.   

The distance between us increased as we began a different loop.  Soon, she was out of sight.  As I made my way through the formal garden, the tulips looked especially beautiful in the rain.  I stopped at one where one of the petals had fallen outward.  Two days ago, I saw a crouching woman taking picture of that very tulip. I later wished I had taken her picture as she tried to capture that tulip.  Then yesterday, as I approached that tulip bed, a different woman was crouching down to photograph the same tulip.  That time, I wasn’t deterred, I got her picture and when she stood and moved on to another tulip bed, I took her picture three more times. After the last one, she turned to me and I said, “I like to take pictures of photographers.”  She smiled in a way that said, “We all have our thing,” and resumed her task.  Today, nobody was photographing the tulips drenched in raindrops except for me.  I finally got to photograph the red tulip with the one petal falling outward, pooling rain.  

As I finished the garden bed loop, I saw the woman in the green hooded rain jacket who said hi.  She was running across the bridge, probably in 8 strides.  After she crossed the bridge, she came to a stop and resumed walking.  She turned to head up the hill toward the parking lot.  As her path crisscrossed mine, from 50 feet away she yelled, “Are you okay?” I was probably crouching over more than usual because of the rain.  I yelled back, “I’m okay.  I’m just very slow.”  As she continued walking up the hill, she said, “I was trying to run.”  I said, “Running is just a distant memory.”  And she disappeared behind a flowering cherry tree. 

I headed for the bridge of 16 strides and crossed.  It was raining a little heavier now.  My last loop that normally takes 13 minutes took longer even though I didn’t stop for pictures.  I walked in the center of the path as if I owned it because there wasn’t anybody else to make room for.  A couple I didn’t see coming toward me jumped off the path and walked on the grass to maintain social distance.  Wetter than I planned to be, I was glad to get back to the nearly empty parking lot.  

I glanced to my right and, to my surprise, saw the woman in the green hooded rain jacked who said “hi” and asked “are you okay?” I was sure by now she’d be long gone.  As our eyes connected, from 100 feet away, she yelled, “You’re not slow.” I laughed, “I’m slow, but it’s okay.  You run every day?”  We began walking toward each other.  From 50 feet, she said, “I’m just trying to learn.  I was meeting two other people here, but they gave up before I did.”  I said, “My body gave up on running long ago.”  She said, “It’s hard on the knees.  I feel it already.”  She lifted her left leg and touched her knee.  I said, “My knees weren’t a problem.  My back gave out.”  From 20 feet away, she asked, “Is it a good idea?”  I nodded, “Take it slow. And remember to stretch.”  As she said, “I will,” she gave me another one of those smiles like she did before crossing the bridge, a smile that said we were here, alone, together, in this moment.  

Dreaming of Places Out of Reach by Kieron Circuit

Dreaming of Places Out of Reach by Kieron Circuit

Find more on Kieron’s Website and on Twitter

Catch You Later by Wendy Goodman

I have separation anxiety. Planted long ago deeply in the dark, damp dirt. Buried beneath a patchwork of grasses–some wild, some artificial–atop of which I stroll barefoot. It meandered in the mulch, it moseyed around in the muck, and then morphed into a primary personality trait. 

I can’t say goodbye.

So I don’t. I say “Catch you later.” And its colloquial variations: “See you later.” “Later.” “See ya!” If I’m feeling cute, “Later Gator.” 

Never goodbye. 

It’s a three-step process, if we are friends or family. Step 1 is a summary, a wrap up. I touch on the things we have already discussed, reinforce important points, restate advice and direction. Step 2 is when will we see each other again. Nothing definite, options, planting a few seeds. Step 3 is when will we speak again, or in the modern era, text. And finally a “Catch you later.”  

It looks something like this:

After a lovely evening at the home of my oldest friend Christina, we walk towards the front door and I say, “Let me know what happens tomorrow after you meet with the Wicked HR Witch. Remember your worth. You deserve so much better, remember that. Keep me posted. And definitely make that acupuncture appointment. Promise you’ll call first thing.” I take my coat from the hook by the door, fold it over my arm while saying, “Think about that weekend in April. I could do Friday or Saturday. You pick the night, I’ll get the tickets.” I take a step out the door, standing on her front stoop, adding, “Text me in the morning after the Wicked HR Witch meeting. I’m in meetings all morning so I might not see your texts right away. If you need to talk, I can mid-afternoon driving home.” I carefully walk down the three steps of the front stoop and say “Thank you for an amazing dinner and evening. It was perfect. I loved every second. I love you. Talk to you tomorrow.” Walking toward my car, I yell, “Catch you later.”

If you are the cashier at WaWa:

“Hi there! How are you? Nope, don’t need a receipt. Or a bag. Are you working all weekend? It seems like you’ve been here every day this week. No? Okay, good. Nah, no soft pretzels for me today, but thanks for thinking of me. Have a great weekend. See you next week, I’m sure. Be well! Catch you later.”

If you are the pizza delivery person:

“Hey! How’s it going? Oh, that’s totally fine, I’m just glad you guys are so busy, with all that rain yesterday, I was afraid it would kill the weekend crowd. Yes, it was gorgeous today! Did you get to the beach before work? Oh, I’m so glad. Thank you! Be safe out there, and have a really good rest of your night. Catch you later.”

If you are the toll booth collector on I-95 North in Delaware 25 years ago:

“Hi! How are you today? I’m well, thanks. Here you go. Thanks so much. Have a great rest of your Sunday. Please take care. Catch you later.” Len, my now husband, then my new boyfriend, chuckled and wondered, “You know you just said ‘Catch you later’ to the toll booth guy who you won’t catch later, right?”  

Yes, I answered. I know.    

I know I long to connect with people, total strangers, the toll collector and I do it with ease. After that shared moment, the exchange of energy, it’s hard to say goodbye. With connection comes separation. And that’s my burden.

In the time of coronavirus I’m asked, “What’s beautiful right now?”

I respond, “Everyone is acting like me. Everyone has separation anxiety.

            Family, friends, neighbors, strangers. Wishing safety. “Stay safe.” Wishing good health. “Be well.” Wishing joy. “Enjoy the sunshine today.” And a wish for the future. “I’ll see you real soon.” 

            If you are Katerina, the owner of Mastiha, the Greek bakery in my Kensington neighborhood. I’ve ordered online. I’ve paid online. The much needed spanakopita, tsoureki, feta pesto, baklava and just out of the oven pita are boxed up and left out back. “Curbside pickup” as we’re calling it. Yet Katerina appears at the back door, socially distanced, when she sees me. 

“Wendy! Thank you so much. I threw in two family style dishes that aren’t on the menu, lentils and chick-peas with feta. I whipped them up this morning, cooking is keeping me calm. It’s my thank you to you and your family for all your support. I’m just so grateful, so please it’s on me. Oh, also, let me know if you need staples. Flour, butter, eggs. If you are having a hard time finding them, I can get for you. My suppliers have plenty. Enjoy! Again, thank you, Wendy. And, please be well. I’ll talk to you soon.”

If you are the Grubhub delivery guy delivering us the comfort of Maryland crab soup, crab dip cheesy pretzels and buffalo wings, from The Stained Glass Pub, the Silver Spring staple. He leaves it at the front door. No knocking. No greeting. And then a text. No name, only  a number, from the sanctuary of his car.

“Hi ma’am. Your food is at your front door. Enjoy, and have a great night. Thanks so much for the tip. I really appreciate it. Hope to “see” you soon.” I respond, “Thank you so very much, we appreciate you and please please be safe.” He replies, “Don’t worry ma’am, I’m doing great and keeping a safe distance.” 

            If you are doing business with the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office:

Emails to and from the USPTO where I’ve worked as a trademark attorney for two decades. “Be well” cemented in my signature block. Now strangers, as well as the surly attorneys I communicate with daily, close with “Please stay safe and be well.” It’s a wish, maybe even an order. Now, like me, they wonder about who, when, how — next time.

It’s like watching myself living inside everyone else.

Suddenly it matters that when we disconnect it’s not for long. Suddenly it matters to be aware that we might not stand barefoot together again on this patchwork of grass. Suddenly it matters to everyone, not just me.

Find more from Wendy on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook

My Room by Julie Menna

is suffocating me.


The teal and white stripes scraping my walls innocently-

ones that someone I loved likened to an abandoned ice cream parlor-

Have turned cold and wicked, sealing off my cell.


Is scalding me.


            The five gaping Victorian windows-

Kinds of portals for the false light outside-

Now toast my matted carpets in great heat waves of despair.


Tiny sun-dried carcasses menacingly dot their glass panels.

O! To pelt my own six legs against reality and be reborn into some great 



Is numbing me.


My neck cranes back to see the same mysteriously smudged curtain,

The same limp bean bag, 

The same rusting door knob,

And the same mascara stained mirror-

            She displays them all over again.


I tire of this grey, hypnotic expanse

Yet I still can not sleep.


Is killing me.


            The room closes in –

                        Rendering me a husk of past interactions-

            Pressing close against my dry knuckles with its staling air of distance


            Ah! To be released from this sterile fortress and touch that one I loved,

                        To inhale a breath that isn’t mine 

                        and buzz back to life outside this dreaded glass.




Is saving me.

one / my city is a ghost town by Asia Mundy

it is warm outside for the first time in a month / and my city is a ghost town / every server is a

Lone Ranger / every grocery store a gold mine / or the front lines / either way my partner still

goes to work / I still go to work / put on a brave face / a smile / a not not true not truth / just an

empty plate and a holster / just a double barrel full of soap and hot water / just six feet and a

take-out only sign / and everything is true and untrue / everything a reality check / a double-take

/ a dream / a deja-vu gold rush where everything is real and not real / is paper product priceless /

is silver dollar soap scum / and health code holsters / every day is a knife unsheathed / a battle

cry / an unmarked grave / Lone Ranger brings a loaded pistol / makes a promise and a paycheck /

another day on the front lines / a headline / can’t read past another headline / the park is full of

people too close together / our homes are full of people too close together / and we are all still

lonely here / we are all just trying to make it to the great Wild West / where the hope waits /

where the gold is in the water / where the curve is flat and the sunsets are round and full / and my

city is a ghost town / still breathing / for now

Find more from Asia on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter

Glass Cube Abstract 2 by Catherine Roberts Leach

Glass Cube Abstract 2 by Catherine Roberts Leach

Find more from Catherine on her website