We’ve had the windows open since yesterday morning. By the time August arrives, the house has been closed for weeks with the air conditioner on, and we feel claustrophobic, even when there’s not a pandemic. As soon as the high is forecast to drop below 80 degrees, we open up.
A gentle rain falls. With the overcast sky and the wet breeze, it’s cool enough that I changed from shorts into jeans. I’ve got my freshly cut hair pulled back in a low ponytail with a braid on one side to keep the frizz down, and my fingernails and toenails have a new coat of lacquer: coral red. I am dressed and presentable… and have nowhere to go. Even though I finally got my quarantine hair trimmed, we’re still limiting our contact with the outside world.
My bare toes are cold but clammy because of the humidity. The scent of dryer heat drifts up through the rain. Towels tumble dry, and the vent to release the heat is below the open window where I sit to write.
I hear the steady tap of rain on leaves, porch boards, and puddles. Water trickles down the gutter next to my seat by the window. My husband slices vegetables for his stir-fry lunch in the kitchen. I hear the scythe sound of a sharp blade through veg, the thump when the knife meets the board, the sizzle of peanut oil in the pan, the ding of wooden spatula on cast iron.
I spent the morning on chores: I picked up the grocery order and put the groceries away — cold stuff in the fridge, snacks in the cupboard, staples in the pantry. I washed napkins, sheets, and towels. I drove our daughter to (physically distanced) swim practice and dropped off a donation at Goodwill. I emptied bathroom garbage cans. I wiped kitchen counters and the table, folded napkins, took out the compost and the recycling, washed parsley and two heads of lettuce.
And it was only noon when I finished.
Now the rain splashes down and we’re still stuck in our house. With the chores done and the weather too dreary to garden or sail or paddle board — the activities we can do without interacting with other people — I’m inside trying to figure out what to read next. I started The Yellow House, a memoir, but I might be more in the mood for a novel.
While I marinate on what I want, I’m reading an article about Toni Morrison. I didn’t realize she was an editor as well as an author, and it was she who published Henry Dumas’s Ark of Bones. I read that for my Andrea Reads America project and loved it, and I remember being so excited to find it because I had never heard of Henry Dumas, and it was this obscure book of short stories, and it was wonderful. She also hosted a book signing for Muhammad Ali for his 1976 autobiography — a signing she had to work to find a store owner to agree to host because the store owners were all white and “feared riots and looting” — where she brought in Nation of Islam members as peacekeepers. And peaceful it was, of course. More than 2,000 people showed up and got to meet “The Greatest.”
So I don’t know, maybe I’ll read a Toni Morrison book. I remember being assigned The Bluest Eye for school, which makes me wonder about our son’s reading list for his English class this year. He’ll be a high school junior, which I remember was when we started reading meaty stuff. I can’t wait to see what he’ll be reading. Maybe I’ll read along.
The breeze is still cool through the window. Neighbors with young kids walk barefoot in the rain. They wear bright rain jackets and hold umbrellas, and the mom has her pants rolled up to her knees.
The grass is green again after being brown and crisp for almost a month. I want to weed my garden, but not in a more-than-drizzle shower. The steady rainfall has driven all the normal weekend noises away: no lawnmowers, no weed whackers, no air conditioners running. Just the gentle splash of raindrops on leaves, porch boards, and puddles.