Wolf Blitzer was on the muted TV, a block away from our building again. The news-ticker ran across the bottom of the screen, “…shelter-in-place. City of Boston has issued a shelter-in-…”
“You don’t have work,” my husband said, smoking a cigarette at the window. I’d noticed him getting out of bed in the night, but hadn’t noticed him not coming back, and I woke up to dusty spring light whispering later morning than it should have. I panicked at my lateness and nausea snagged my stomach as I tripped, tangled, from the bed. “Christ,” he said. “There’s a tank parking at our corner.”
“What?” I said, not even sure what I was responding to.
“Or, I don’t know. A hummer with a bunch of guns and shit.”
I remember being a kid and sitting on the carpet, feet from the screen, watching bombs fall in Kosovo in the night-vision TV light. I asked if we’d need to buy gas masks, and my father laughed, and my mother scowled at him. “Just imagine,” he said, like I wasn’t there, as she hugged her knees and bit her fingernails, “our little girl riding her bike through the neighborhood in a gas mask.” He crouched down to me. “No sweetie,” he said. “We’re safe here.”
Daniel got up and held his arms out wide and wrapped them around me. Anytime I smelled cigarettes since we’d quit, it was like burning tinfoil, but the tobacco mixed with his deodorant and coffee and it had this feel of home, more home than we already were.
“I missed your hair like this,” he said, and kissed my forehead. I’d dyed it last week, the night before we went to City Hall and cried in the clerk’s office and stuck a mini bride-and-groom into a cupcake. “I’m going to shower,” he said.
I watched the bombs on the TV, in backpacks down the street and hurled from cars across the river. I imagined a glittering yellow bicycle, a rainbow of beads spinning in the spokes, a little girl giggling in a gas mask. I hugged my knees and bit my nails, and my stomach cramped and churned, deep down, like a sheath of paper clumsily balling up. I failed to choke down sobs at the picture of that little boy on the TV again, with his crayon sign. No more hurting people, it said. He had this beautiful, goofy little half-smile. Peace.
They released the lockdown for a while that night. The only store open was this gourmet place down the street, and he came home with champagne and brie and crackers and pepperoni. “Fancy night,” he said. “There was no real food left. No bread, no milk, no chicken. People smarter than us, I guess.”
“Or something.” I turned back to the window and put out my cigarette. He put the groceries on the table and wrapped his arms around my neck. I leaned into him. “Are we safe here?”
"I love you," he said.
Brent Rydin lives and works in Boston. He is the founding editor of Wyvern Lit, and has work published or forthcoming in Pithead Chapel, The Island Review, Cartridge Lit, and WhiskeyPaper. He has a website at brntrydn.com and tweets at @brntrydn.