Primary Sources

That is not how social isolation works, young lady

Bennett Gewirtz, Gotta Have Gloves. 2020, acrylic. 24 × 36". Courtesy of the artist.

March 29, 2020

My Saturday with the babies: all morning at the beach, bagel brunch watching the garbage trucks, then to my clinic to pee and grab some specimen cups for sandcastle building. When Kate found out I took the babies inside she was so mad we have never been closer to divorce. “Why am I keeping them inside all week if you’re just going to TOUCH SURFACES?”

Kids are having the times of their lives: “Mama! The ocean is big today!” “Mama, can you be Erica?”1 Then I pretend to be teacher Erica, who they haven’t seen in two weeks, and everyone is so happy. “Jackson, do something wrong, OK!” Lo can’t lie at all, but she is scared/thrilled/horrified by Jackson’s capacity for deceit. She can’t believe it every time he sneaks something or plays a trick. What kind of person!

Sixty-two cases in our county.

April 3, 2020

Lo calls her birthmark a bookmark. Today they played babies and Lo sang lullabies. “I love you, I love you, your forehead is warm, you’ll be OK. I’ve got you.” Jackson runs back and forth saying, “My baby is crying!” Lo folds her blankets just so, perfectly. When you praise her she makes her half smile, her one-corner-up, shy, don’t-look-at-me smirk. Ninety-nine county cases, up from eighty-eight yesterday. Eleven in the ICU. We have eighteen ventilators left.

April 4, 2020

Our children are requesting that we refer to them as Mia and Jacus. These are the names of the characters on Little Baby Bum. “Mama, say stop that, JACUS.” So that’s good. We are doing parenting supergood. Lo is holding a blue New York Times newspaper bag with a used diaper in it on her lap so we can use it again after lunch. Jackson’s new lovie is a blue latex glove. This is fine.

My patients who didn’t trust the government or strangers to begin with are feeling pretty smug. My organic farming patients who were Instacart drivers are now sought-after superheroes. “These old couples think we’re so cute they give us both tea.” But, wait. They’re sitting around inside with you? My patients who were bad parents to their four children before are super bad parents now. My college kids whose homes are actively dangerous to their mental health are staying in the campus ghetto, a space so densely populated by young people it might as well be a spermy hot tub. One of Suze’s students didn’t understand how the mute button on her Zoom classroom worked and ordered the morning-after pill over the phone in front of twenty peers. First, this is how the mute button works. Second, that is NOT how social isolation works, young lady.

My community health clinic coworkers and I line up to take our temperature every morning, but there aren’t enough thermometer covers, so I keep mine in a specimen cup for daily reuse. I’m the mental health manager. There’s no medical need to see mental health patients in person but leadership insists that we mental health providers still work from the clinic, so I just go in and log on to Zoom and see video people all day with my specimen cup rattling in my jacket pocket, trying to avoid the water cooler.

We had a potluck yesterday to celebrate Dr. E’s retiring. Dr. P bought $100 worth of pupusas for all of us. I asked the pediatrician who is actively fighting cancer what on earth. She said, “I voiced an objection but it wasn’t well received.” I joked that maybe I could google what the CDC thought about potlucks, and she said, “Good idea! If you find anything let me know, and I’ll ask the medical director if we can cancel it.” They ended up moving the potluck outside. Someone didn’t want a whole pupusa, so they just tore it in half and left half for whomever.

County cases 168. One dead.

  1. Some names, place-names, and identifying details have been changed. 

More from Issue 40