I was fine in the morning, but not in the afternoon. He put the tarp over his canoe.
When I saw that, my lips pressed together. In fact, my whole face contracted and behind my eyes I felt pressure that could become tears. Or daggers. This out-of-proportion reaction signaled loss.
Our boats saved my summer in 2020. Before the water was warm we used them to escape the house, the news, and the stress of groceries. We wore long sleeves and went to his fishing spots. In later months, bright timeless afternoons and I stretched in the sun. Nothing felt so unchanged as swimming or paddling. Six feet of distance, staying outside, and having no concern over masks were all normal during these activities. It was life-affirming when my head emerged from water, my eyes and mouth opening the moment I sensed I had reached the air. I breathed in every molecule I could, concern of contamination completely absent. Being afloat buoyed my spirits. The tarp drew a line.
Summer is gone. We’ll be inside more as the days cool and shorten. Getting used to Covid is over. Living in the world with this virus has begun. Forever there will be this demarcation: life before and after the pandemic.
One-by-one, the people who are my family and friends come to mind. We are all different than before; changes have accumulated over years. My brother, whose freckled face I’ve seen squint against the Colorado sun hundreds of times now lives in Michigan. I have never been to his home. My sister is no longer raising three boys; she is a grandmother. I am a grandmother. My hard-working husband has a job only sometimes—by choice. My parents are not alive.
As leaves float to the ground, they reveal bare branches. I stand in this stark moment and mourn all that has fallen away.