This morning I woke up in my old apartment, located in downtown Cambridge, MA. The apartment is quiet and empty. Looking around my room, it is as if the pandemic never really happened. There are sticky notes with my to-do list on my mirror. Meetings that never happened, work that was canceled, and a grocery list long overdue. My stand table has an unfinished novel that I had started, a glass of aged water, and tickets to the Peabody museum for March 19th.
My living room has a slight haunting look. As I walk into the once abandoned area, I see a large stack of mail towering on the table. Luckily, our apartment manager stacked our mail here during the months we have been gone. There is a blanket sprawled out on the couch where I would take my mid-morning naps after work. My pantry is wide open, snacks just sitting in there untouched. I have about 12 books sitting on the side table; all have an arrangement of sticky notes protruding out of the side of them. These were the books I had worked so hard on for my final project.
My kitchen is probably the saddest place in the house. Three cups, a spoon, and a bowl are found crusted in my sink. The dishwasher is full, and the stove has a pan just resting on top of it. The coffee maker is on, keeping time for absent guests. In the microwave is a stack of forgotten homemade tortillas. We made an amazing breakfast just moments before I was to leave; huevos rancheros! The refrigerator has a white board that reads: “God gave you hope for the sake of the hopeless. Have a Great Spring Break! See you soon Roomie!”
On March 8, my roommate and I had no idea we were going to be gone for such a long time. We had our bags packed for only a week at most, leaving our important notes, books, and research here at the apartment. We did not think to prepare our apartment for an extended stay. Instead, we thought that picking our life up where we left it was just the easiest thing to do.
After returning to Boston for the first time in three months, my stomach sank. I was fever checked a handful of times and asked where I have been in the last two weeks by strangers. I walked the empty streets of Cambridge, rolling a suitcase, until I had reached my apartment door. I could not believe the amount of stillness the streets had for 8’oclock pm. My apartment had smelt like resting paint, with no company in months.
My stomach felt sad for days as I resumed a level of normalcy in my daily life. Throwing away our molded food, replacing the milk and creamer, and just continuing as if nothing has happened. People run outside with face masks, social distancing is real here, and there is an ambulance on standby on every major side street. I have to mobile order my food, stand outside and wait for them to bring it to me. The grocery store is a battle of eye contact, communicating our fears but also trying to keep a common decency and politeness. The grass is super tall in the park, I assume that the grounds crew are not seen as essential. The gates to Harvard are locked and there is an eerie feel in the square.
I tried to buy [4 rolls] toilet paper and [a small box of 10] tampons and my total for the two were $31.20. Groceries, for the most part, are priced the same. Public transportation is conveniently free, but the bus routes are no longer as constant. Pharmacies are all closed and have condensed to a single location, outside the highly infected area. There are bags and bags of clothes on the sides of the streets. With no donation centers open, street dumping being temporarily illegal, people take advantage of the nightly curfew and sneakily dump them when nobody's looking. People experiencing homelessness are not as visible; I am hoping that they have found safety and care during this time.
I am here in Boston to pack up my apartment. Unfortunately, my lease is up in a week and we are needing to leave. It has not been ideal that I come home so early, but it is a must. Being home in Colorado, I have become comfortable with our privileged situation; however, I have just been reminded how awful things can really get. Upon arriving, I was greeted with the news that one of my favorite Reverends, an elder friend of mine in assisted care, and her daughter have all died of COVID. I pray that whatever this is, it clears up soon. People are dying, lives are altered, and answers always come with more questions. I can see this stress strangling my friend, essential workers are tired, and students have no idea what their next steps are to be. I had never imagined, waking up in Boston would be quite like this.