love letter in shaky handwriting.
by Michael King
I take a deep breath and study my hands. How do I write about today when I have no idea where we’re headed? In moments, I am joyful and boisterous; in others, I wrestle with despair. I am lonely and hopeful, afraid and resolved. This is what it’s like, I say to myself, to live through history. But how do I write about it? What voice do I take –– do I make jokes and brighten the room? should I offer words of hope, of courage?
Just show up. A voice, from deep within. An exhale. Don’t you understand? It’s always been this. You’ve always been writing in the midst of uncertainty. You’re long-practiced in the art of telling the story before you know where it goes. It’s hope, and it’s heartbreak, and it’s loneliness, and it’s laughter that echoes into memory.
Write. I pick up the pen.
Whatever happens, I can promise you this: My morning run is the shred of normalcy I will cling to longest.
For forty minutes or so, I forget about the uncertainties. I lose track of time and space, let my fingers come loose and drop calendar dates on the sidewalk behind me. My breathing is deep, my skin acutely aware of the misty rain or muggy heat or bitter chill. My heartbeat thunders, my footsteps carry me forward. Through miles and miles, I am fully alive in my body.
I arrive back home and fall, for the moment, into a sitting position on the floorboards. My thighs, calves, and shoulders radiate heat, muscles celebrating their own effort, and I hug them all close. Ten minutes til work, return that student’s email, you need paper towels. The world returns to me in fragments.
By the time my heartbeat returns to its normal cadence, I remember that there’s a lot we don’t know right now.
I am chronicling everything. I want to remember it, the wisdom I discovered in the time the world slowed down.
So much of the discovery has just been confirmation of my suspicions: Love is resilient, reaches out across maplines, echoes in conversations held over FaceTime and phone call and text message. We worry for each other, we check in, we confess the fears we’ve been pushing down, and we laugh. What else is there for us to do but be human?
And yet I am still discovering: I am reacquainting with rest, it feels like, for the first time in years. In normal days, perhaps, I am always grappling with some unspoken urgency to be somewhere else, with someone else. Now there is only me, only here.
Maybe, I think to myself, I have built my self-worth around the idea that I can be very good at togetherness. I can love well, can comfort and encourage, can build a shelter over somebody through their storms. Maybe these days will challenge me to find some strength in my solitude.
I find myself, in moments, acting in ways that I’m certain are echoed across humanity: I put a record on and, with no eyes to watch me, I break into dance. I pace my apartment, talking with people who aren’t here, resolving old fights with conversations I will never have. I fold my laundry, dream of hopeful outcomes to all of this. I have cereal at 11 PM, because I want to, and stare out the window at the world slowed down.
I’m here, and so are you, and we are hopeful and fearful at once. We are grieving our normalcy, yearning for connection, and discovering that we have long forgotten the joy of our own company. I’m writing, hands shaking, I’m writing.