The Time I’ve Always Wanted

COVID-19 has me isolated, nowhere to be.

So I run, something I did when, twice in my life, I lived near the ocean. I stopped six years ago when, at age 34, I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. I became afraid of exercise, of being far from a glass of orange juice. A friend who lives on the East Coast gave me a marathon training routine. I’m on week three. Kind of. It rained the first week, so that doesn’t count.

Thoughts are few when I’m circling the neighborhood: Move away from that person. There are more people and cars than a few weeks ago. Keep going.

My kickboxing gym is closed, so I hit the heavy bag in the backyard. The bag is too short, not filled enough. The stanchion makes noise when I hit it. I can’t move around the bag like I can at the gym. My jump rope isn’t as good as the ones they have.

No days off. I walk twice a week. Ten-thousand steps. COVID or not, I have to exercise. Mentally. Physically. The sweat helps. With everything.

I worry. Diabetes. Asthma.

I wear masks. They’re uncomfortable. My endocrinologist said I could die at 55. That was before COVID-19. I wear masks.

I call friends, check-in, compare notes with fellow teachers. The three campuses where I work moved my classes online. I used to teach one class of 20 students. Now I teach 20 individual classes. Times four. And my lab position. I’m better in person, but there’s Zoom. Except, of course, for those who don’t have access. It’s not grading papers or reorganizing four classes I spent all winter structuring. It’s the students. I’m trying.

I wake at 11. Pajamas all day. Pajamas all night. Grade whenever. Run whenever. Is today Wednesday or Thursday?

I play guitar, watch YouTube tutorials on leads because I was always a bass player. “Boys Don’t Cry” and “Just Like Heaven” are good places to start. The goal is to write songs, record an album that takes all the music I’ve ever loved—Black Flag, Jawbreaker, Elvis (Presley and Costello), Eric B. and Rakim, Black Sabbath, John Coltrane, Ramones, John Lee Hooker, the Beatles—and says, “Here, world. Here’s what I’ve been doing my entire life.” Old Youth. That’s the band name and/or album title. I’m 40. I like to think I’m clever.

I binge “Tiger King,” “Waco,” basketball highlights. I play Tetris. I wonder where MH370 went.

I write at least four nights a week, long past the time when the emails, texts and calls come. The book, an essay collection, is happening. “It’s Hard to Be Me.” It took a global pandemic, but the page count increases. Cliché, yes, but I was 23 just yesterday. I had all the time. My favorite author, John Fante, in my favorite novel, “Ask the Dust,” writes, “Take your time, Bandini. You got ten years to write a book, so take it easy, get out and learn about life, walk the streets.”

London. New York City. Tokyo. Venice. Reykjavík. New Orleans. Edinburgh. Maastricht. Mexico City.

This is the time I’ve always wanted. Isolated, nowhere to be. Me and the things I’ve been talking about.

There are no more streets to walk.

Photo: Shutterstock

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