For three weeks my heart beat against the rocks. With each new wave of emotion, I pictured it tearing against the crags, wincing and contracting as salt entered the wounds, floating helplessly in a dark ocean, directionless.
I texted, “How are you feeling now?” over and over, like a mantra. The now in the sentence pleased me. It communicated that the condition was momentary, that this too shall pass. The comfort in the curves of letters, the solace in the ritual.
If there was a response, it was an indication that across the world, the heart of a loved one continued to beat. If there was no response, agony.
At 2:00 AM, I sent flowers, for lack of anything better to do.
I texted my sibling with updates. It felt organized, responsible to be imparting information to yet another time zone. I sent a timeline of the progression of the disease. I used it as an estimate of when to worry. According to the Internet, Day 12 was the day to start panicking. However, it was unclear when Day 1 had even started.
At 2:00 AM, I looked at flight itineraries.
Unable to guarantee re-entry into Japan, my country of residence for over a decade, I despaired. Would I join the thousands of foreign residents denied re-entry? Would I lose my job as a result? When would I even book the 19-hour flight? Should a loss be experienced in the same location to be understood? Would a death rattle heard over an app be less meaningful? (What if the connection buffered in that moment?) What would I do? What could I do?
At 2:00 AM, I looked up testing sites and associated details. The search results were blocked by my IP address.
I wondered when to tell people that this was happening. Gingerly, I told two friends in the group chat. I looked at the words on the screen. That was enough outreach, I decided.
At 12:00 PM, I tried being publicly sad on Twitter. Without Facebook, I didn’t know how to leave tentative breadcrumbs of pre-grief. Vague posting to strangers briefly distracted from the crags.
My partner encouraged me to talk about my feelings. I declined, stating that I would rather write about my feelings. “Then write about your feelings,” he urged. I stared silently. I was a wounded animal, couldn’t he see that? Wounded animals have no words. They howl disconsolately.
I worked overtime. Then, for hours I wrote lines of code. I manipulated arrays and strung together loops. Either the code worked or it didn’t. There was relief in that logic. I could solve the problem easily by adding the missing semicolon. I was happy at night, in the glow of the blue light.
At 12:00 PM, I cried at my desk. A text had gone unanswered.
My partner said that everything would be all right. He cited statistics. I seethed, “If numbers were comforting, therapists would assign math problems!” He considered it and said, “That’s a good one. You should write that down.” I returned to my computer baffled.
“I don’t know what I’m supposed to do,” I texted. “Either they’ll be ok or they won’t.” Fifty-fifty was the only statistic that mattered. A balm of certainty.
At 9:00 PM, I received a phone call. We talked for an hour.
After the phone call, the waves stopped crashing just as they had arrived—suddenly and without warning. It was an abrupt return the the new normal.
At 10:00 PM, I sent groceries. It was a regular activity for everyday people, no misfortune.