It’s been a little over a week now that I’ve been tracing the pattern in the floorboards from kitchen to bedroom. Sans a whole of 30 minutes in the outdoors, I’ve seen nothing but familiar walls. My neighbors, on the other hand, threw an impromptu bonfire about halfway through. Five or six gathered round a discount store grill with craft beer and a couple of dogs for entertainment. I wonder if they noticed me watching from the window above?
On a good day, I’m fine with being in the house at most a day. Beyond that there’s this thing that happens. Movements and actions become too familiar and trying to get a stain out of the stovetop becomes less a distraction and more trying to get a stain out of the stovetop. The smell of bleach perfuming the bathroom tile stings for a split second, then fades. Making the same movements twice, cleaning the same dish, moving a chair from one end of the room to another, flipping through channels, watching a movie it all becomes not enough and when it’s not enough, everything becomes too much.
So it’s day eight of everything becoming not enough. I’ve cleaned, I’ve hung the curtains that have been staring at me since we moved in. I’ve built a dining table, two chairs, and a bench. I’ve moved an old secretary’s desk rescued from the neighbor’s stoop back and forth through the apartment. I’ve tried on everything in my closet twice and folded my clothes well enough to make a knock-off Marie Kondo proud. But it’s not enough. Anxiety doesn’t really care there’s a pandemic outside. There aren’t enough motions my hands can do to keep it at bay any longer, but then there’s the kitchen.
You know already that my kitchen has always been kind to me. It’s provided refuge time and time again, but lately not so much. For the first time in a long while my feet on the ceramic tile didn’t do it for me. The clicking on of the stove went unnoticed and its use became only by necessity— and with long work hours and delivery at the tap of the screen not much there either. So it went dark, a place to put ice in a cup for a stiff drink and to make my morning coffee. It became not enough. It wasn’t the kitchen’s fault. The time I couldn’t spend cooking bothered me. Heating and reheating wasn’t doing it for me the same way going through my pantry and creating something out of nothing would. So the tile, and the clicking, and the pantry, just mocked me.
But in isolation, the mocking has hushed. I’ve had to find more movements for my hands and for my feet and for my mind to keep anxiety at bay and so I returned to my place— a kitchen full of ingredients waiting for me to make something of them and of myself… at least for the time being. So I got to work. Not wanting anything to go to waste, leftover rice taking up space in the fridge became arancini benedict (sort of). I took the hard cold rice and put it in a bow with about a teaspoon of water, then into the microwave to bring it back to life. I sauteed shaved brussel sprouts clinging to life with some garlic and added it to the rice. Salt, some parmesan, a dash of dried onion flakes and eggs to bring the family together. I shallow fried it in some canola oil with a drop of sesame oil. Formed little cakes that wouldn’t and shouldn’t be called balls and topped with a poached egg and some fried kale.
I bought no ingredients, I opened nothing new. Everything I used had no more than a day or two of life left, but I turned it into something delicious and like that I noticed the cold feeling at the bottoms of my feet and the symphony of the burners. But more importantly, its what I forgot to remember, the fact that the world is rapidly changing suddenly and I am stuck inside and what if soon it’s all not enough, if the motions are not heavy enough and the sounds aren’t loud enough and thoughts win out. But for now, there’s a room waiting for me.