This is what you will remember

You’ll remember the walks out back. That first weekend, the first snow had already fallen and another storm was rolling in. It fell heavy and wet on top of the cold, light kernels of ice that were there before, thickening into a snowy soup. Under the trees there was a constant drip, and the trail was sloshy like the bottom of a snow cone in summertime. 

You’ll remember the rhythmic crunch of snow beneath your new boots, the texture of it sometimes crusty, sometimes chalky. And how your footprints left a trail between the houses. You stamped your sole against bootprints you didn’t recognize, wondering which of your neighbors had also passed this way. You wanted the path to be yours alone but you were glad to have help hardening the route. Soon, a compressed path emerged, distinct from the softer trail that connected it to your driveway. At least you knew that one was stamped solely by you. 

That spur trail wasn’t the only thing that was yours alone those two weeks. A vat of mashed potatoes and a pumpkin pie on Thanksgiving (also eaten for two or three breakfasts after, standing at the kitchen counter). The task of trimming your dog’s bloody duclaw when she snagged it on something in the snow, holding her down and soothing at the same time. A watercolor painting of a bison skull, which you did by the gas fire late one night instead of streaming another bad movie. If you had used oil or even acrylic, you would have used an opaque white to mask some of the magenta, sienna, and marine hues you’d used deepen the shadows on the skull. But you didn’t have any, so the bone ended up washed in rainbows. 

And there was that one Saturday, seven days after exposure, where you had a running nose and felt lightheaded on a dog walk along a partially frozen creek. You stopped halfway up a small hill to catch your breath because you didn’t want to push yourself and develop a cough. The next day, not 24 hours later, you walked the same hill and felt fine. You didn’t even notice a change in your pace. 

And because your friends in medical professions told you to stay hydrated, you drank a lot of water out of 30-ounce mason jar with a wide mouth. Sometimes you’d set it above the fire so the glass was hot in your hands and the water burned the back of your throat as you swallowed. Your dry lips became pink and full as you became more and more hydrated, and you admired them vanely, noting that perhaps quarantine looked good on you. 

You felt a weakness growing in your hip and wondered if it was related to the virus (even though you knew it was probably from all the sitting). You searched for strengthening exercises and bookmarked them for later. And when you were pretty sure it was out of your system, you did a 30-minute kickboxing workout in your living room, with the dog jumping alongside you and bringing you toys. It felt good to move, to sweat. Then you went back to sitting and dreaming on the couch by the fire, on no one’s schedule but your own. 

You worried about your ability to compartmentalize when you spoke with a friend, someone whose miscarried baby should have been born this month. She was upset at the world, upset at the virus. This is bad, she kept saying, more upset than you about your self-isolation and two inconclusive test results following a confirmed exposure. You told her you were grateful you were asymptomatic and you didn’t know what else to say. 

You had learned from your mother that when a thing needs to be done, you do the thing. And so you isolated, but you tried to write and paint while you did it, and you had lots of conversations with your dog and fed her little bits of your mashed potatoes.