The Lopsided COVID Conversation

by | Aug 6, 2021 | 0 comments

For a year, except for carefully calibrated trips to the doctor or dentist, I truly was happy in my little 680-square-foot apartment. I considered it a variation on a theme of Michael Cohen’s house arrest.

I cooked for a very small circle of friends. I shared a pod of sorts with a neighbor who has become a dear friend. I’ve become a kind of surrogate grandmother to her 8-year-old daughter and 10-year-old son. I’ve even dog-sat for Khan, their 12-year-old mixed-breed something or other.

For exercise I swam when and where I could, walked from my tiny abode to the trash room–and—if feeling ambitious, all the way down to the cavernous 1st floor mail room.

To bide the time I did what others across the country did and watched tv, read new and old books, raged at right-wing Republican callousness, and spent ridiculous time on the phone. I was already hopelessly addicted to Facebook. . . . 

And then it happened.

But to understand this bizarre event, we must step back a moment in time. 

My daughter, who lives about 1500 miles away, gave me an exotic violet plant for Mother’s Day in lieu of joining me for lunch or brunch on this made-for-the-day, outrageously expensive, meal.

I was so moved I vowed not to kill it as quickly as I have caused the demise of its predecessors—including cacti.

I read up on the care and feeding of African violets. I bought violet food, read and reread the instructions. I consulted with friends who were gardeners. I positioned my gift so it got just enough light.

It rewarded me by not dying.

In time little leaves got bigger.  Biden got elected.  Vaccines hit the market, and free vaccinations were decreed for all.  Being of a certain age, I met Moderna reasonably early in the game — on the first day of March to be precise.

About that same time, something magical happened: the violet bloomed. I almost cried. I took pictures from different angles and sent them to my kid.

Calling upon my great gift for creativity and imagination and as a sign of great joy and gratitude, I named my blooming plant “Violet.”

That’s when things got strange.

I took to talking to Violet, which I know some won’t think odd because they talk to their plants too.

But Violet starting talking back.

She became annoyed even if I apologized for leaving her to start dinner.

Things then took a really dark turn: carrots, celery, onions and garlic got snippy about spending unnecessary time on the chopping board.  “Either you’re going to make Bolognese or not,” huffed the thyme and oregano.

I had recently fallen under the spell of Stanley Tucci in Italy, a country I’ve been trying to visit for years. When I had the time, I didn’t have the money.  When I had the money Covid crept in — hence the vicarious visit to Bologna.

But I digress.

Just as I was halfway through dicing a yellow onion, a plaintive voice from across the room whined, “I’m thirsty.”

I realized I had originally stopped to visit Violet to check the soil and to water her.

A smart aleck garlic clove whispered to the carrot, “This sauce will never get made.  Y’all might as well go on and wilt.”

“I heard that,” I snapped, then glanced furtively from side to side, as though fearing someone in the empty apartment might hear me and not the gabby flora.

When my brain stopped sizzling and the circuits readjusted themselves, I realized I was having a post-lockdown, pre-freedom episode. I was beginning to experience short-termer hallucinations.

 

And then the call came. 

Moderna #1 was scheduled, and, in short order, done. Thirty-four minutes, in and out, including the prescribed 15-minute wait.

In 28 days Moderna #2 would occur, and after 20-some hours of abject misery and a 10- or 16-hour wait, I’d be free to move about the cabin. The light at the end of the tunnel would not be an oncoming train.

I would soon cast off jeans and t-shirts, trading them for girly girl clothes.  I’d don my favorite green, linen dress and the handcrafted copper-and-beaded earrings that look like little pea pods and hope like hell they didn’t start a conversation.

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<a href="https://writersatlarge.com/riff/author/ellen-sweets/" target="_self">Ellen Sweets</a>

Ellen Sweets

Ellen Sweets is a journalist and author. Her 50-year career as a reporter began at The St. Louis American, her father’s black weekly. She has since written for The St. Louis Post-Dispatch; The Dallas Morning News; The Denver Post; and Neiman-Marcus. Her book, Stirring It Up With Molly Ivins was published by the University of Texas Press in 2011. She lives in Austin, Texas.

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