White Plains, New York
BEFORE I TELL you about today let me tell you about Sunday, which started as Sunday, but never ended.
Wait no, I have to go back to Friday. Friday night we went to dinner for the birthday of our friend Claire—a few of their friends, her wife Robin, my brother John, Josh, and me. Our daughter Zelda stayed with their daughter Poppy at Claire and Robin’s house with a babysitter, for a sleepover, still a novelty at the tiny big age of 8.
When we got to Tarrytown we parked next to a funeral home with an over-the-top Christmas display. As Josh parallel parked into the spot, I remembered how he’d said, a few hours earlier, “This is the exact time and place and scenario where we get Covid.” I was very busy taking photos of the funeral home. He also said, “Imagine you roll up to your grandfather’s funeral, and it’s… this”—the lights, a jiggling candy cane. We laughed hysterically.
When Josh got exposed to Covid almost exactly a year ago, I immediately sent him to one of those live-in kitchen hotels, only to be vindicated by his positive test two days later.
Our daughter was five when this shit started, and had a history of asthma and a few rounds of pneumonia behind her already. We wore masks, we held out, we got all the shots., Her history made us vigilant and scared in those early days, and it never really left us.
When the somewhat inevitable “someone’s got Covid who was at the dinner” text came on Saturday I was prepared, but still pissed. We’d had a great time at that birthday dinner. But I was pissed off, because after three fucking years it was over for me and I knew it, I don’t know. I was pissed. We got out the masks. But I still sort of thought maybe I was golden. Me and Zelda were among just a handful of sub-70 year-olds I knew who hadn’t been hit yet. We could be fine. If anything, Josh was up to bat again. He’d been sitting so much closer to the Covid-victim. Me and Zelda, we are fine, I thought. We can be alone, send him off again.
Josh woke up kind of sick on Sunday, which only confirmed my biases. He spent a big part of the day in bed. Zelda wanted to go to an arcade. Dear god, I didn’t want to go but I felt so bad saying no because of so many years, even still, of stored-up guilt from saying no that I said yes. I made her wear a mask for the first time in a year. Me and her, the only people wearing masks in this packed suburban arcade, and she fucking loved it. We had a blast.
When we got home, Josh said he felt better. I went to make her dinner, she was so happy. I had baked some potatoes in the oven before the arcade and when we got back I got one out, put the butter on, the salt, the pepper, and I was leaning over the counter to eat it, when Zelda came in and asked me to fix some problem with the printer—she’s currently hard at work on her script for Hamilton Jr.—and I said, “Let Mama eat her potato, baby.” Zelda laughed, she thought it was the funniest thing I’d ever said.
I knew then something was wrong, and that I had to LIE DOWN.
And so Sunday never ended I don’t remember it. I slept. Monday doesn’t exist either, except that at some point the test whispered “yes” and Josh and me, we agreed I should leave, but I was too sweaty and too tired I couldn’t be awake or sit up let alone drive or like, book a hotel. I was sore and sad and in pain. Josh and Zelda were wearing their masks in their own house together, afraid of being near me.
And so I left on Tuesday. Here is a list I wrote.
- Awake. Energy
- To read but not to stand – book
- A tiny man with big hands
- Lazoe and katina
- Driving sober
- Oceans Zelda Pearl Jam
- My closet
- Take it away, Rob
- To dream of the next time we touch
- You owe A.J.
- They always sleep in their clothes
Zelda loves to get in the car and yell, “Take it away, Rob!” no idea where that came from but it is her affection for Rob Harvilla that it is born of. She loves his “I’m a doofus” takes on music, she loves that he loves farts and drumrolls and weird moments in music (her favorite episode is about Blink-182), She loves Rob encountering this music, for the first time, in his crap dorm room. And I love it, too.
On that fateful Sunday I skipped around on the “Yellow Ledbetter” episode because even though Zelda loves Rob, and by extension loves Pearl Jam, Zelda doesn’t know about the things that “Jeremy” speaks of, not yet. I was already sick but I didn’t know it yet.
But then I woke up in this hotel and I suddenly, after two whole shit days of not being able to do anything but stare at a wall, I could read. Among the Thugs for a while, my comfort book.
And then, Long Road by Steven Hyden: a brand new book about Pearl Jam, a band that meant very much to me when I was 14 and 15 and has meant almost nothing to me in the years since.
I went to Lollapalooza to see Pearl Jam when I was 14 and that day found Lush, and that changed the course of my life, musically. I never listened to another album of theirs properly after that. It’s not that I didn’t love or respect them; I did. But I had embarked on another trip.
As a teenage girl, pre-boyfriend, I didn’t have that much to project my love onto and one of my first objects was Eddie Vedder. He was tiny and inoffensive, he seemed like he was into women’s rights but might still fuck alright, not that I knew what that meant then. I didn’t. And wouldn’t, for several years. What I liked best about him was, as I told my friend Courtney (who used it against me for years) that he was a “small man with big hands.”
He was a small man, with big, hairy hands.
I like to think of all the men from the ’90s I know sleeping naked, not because I want to think of them naked, I don’t. It’s not sexy. But I like to think of them comfortable enough, like me, to occasionally fall asleep without their clothes on. I hope this happens.
Zelda always sleeps without her clothes on, always has. This is one of my points of pride, privately: she is comfortable with herself, and she doesn’t live in fear of the rug being ripped out from under her in the middle of the night.
I read the Pearl Jam book in four or five hours.
I disagree with Rob Harvilla that “Oceans” is one of the three “not good” songs on Ten. To me, it was everything. And still is. I scribbled its lyrics in Sharpie on the inside of my closet in my parents’ house in the suburbs of Pittsburgh.
“Hold on to the thread The currents will shift Glide me towards you know something's left And we're all allowed To dream of the next time we touch”
Eddie Vedder was definitely writing, in 1990 or whatever, a surfer guy song to his lost lover. But in 2022, today, Wednesday, Dec 14, 2022, after the day I’ve had, it’s exactly the fucking feeling I have, the words I want to say to my daughter after three days of not seeing her.
See you soon, boom.
Laura June is a writer, genealogist and soon-to-be bookstore owner. She lives by Helicker’s Cave on the Leatherman’s Loop, and that has absolutely nothing to do with her love of Pearl Jam. Her favorite Pearl Jam album, as of yesterday, is Yield.
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