Tuesday, June 2, 2020

Documenting Cleveland, Tuesday, May 12, 2020

Literary Cleveland invited folks from all over Cleveland to document our city on Tuesday, May 12. It is their intent to create one, unified essay that chronicles this time, in this place.

They had intended to release the final product last week, but the task has proved greater than they had originally conceived (see tweet).
In the meantime, this is my 1,000 word entry. We were asked to write in third person. Mine is perhaps more personal than the criteria required, but it was my day, it was a particular day, and this is what happened to me.

It was a peaceful, uneventful Tuesday, in the midst of a pandemic. Three weeks ago. Before the uprising.

6:56 AM – Home, Cleveland Heights

After hitting snooze four times, he finally got up at half past six. It was a bit chilly for mid-May, but he opened the door to the side porch. He liked to hear the birds. The gas fireplace was lit, and it was time for morning pages.

He had slept through the night. If he didn’t take Benadryl the night before, he usually woke around two-thirty and just lay there for an hour. They said it was from all the worry, but he thought it was from all the alcohol.

8:09 AM – Forest Hill Park, East Cleveland

He took a brisk run through Forest Hill Park. It was overcast and cool, and it was gosling season. As he ran through the park, he had to make a wide berth so as not to get attacked by hissing, parental geese.

Out in the neighborhood he had been running onto the tree lawn, or onto the street, to provide at least ten feet of distance between himself and anyone who shared his path.

8:51 AM – Home, Cleveland Heights

He had lemon cake for breakfast. His wife had made one for family friends, and one for them. Saturday night he had made a loaf of potato bread and a batch of chocolate chip cookies because he was bored. Those went in about two days. In the past two months he had gained ten pounds.

His dreams had been vivid, active. Full of crowds. He only dreamed about people and places that he never usually encountered during the day. Last month it was the parking garage at work, which he had last entered on March 16. Now it was live performances. Memories of his dreams leaked into his waking thoughts.

9:31 AM – Home, Cleveland Heights

He settled into his workspace later than he’d planned. His desk was the wooden, round supper table downstairs. His wife, daughter, son; everyone else worked in their own bedrooms. The whole first floor had become his office.

11:22 AM – Home, Cleveland Heights

He was in a Zoom meeting with the education team. Today they were discussing the summer arts camp. This year they were creating five days of virtual programming, which would include storytelling, crafts, theater games, and scene work.

His daughter wandered by, so he pulled her into the meeting and everyone was glad to see her on the screen. She had an AP Calculus exam at 1:00 PM, and was clutching a fistful of sharpened pencils.

His co-workers had a lot of questions for her about online testing.

She reminded her father, him, not to use WiFi or to make any sound from one to three. Her brother said he didn’t know what he would do with himself for two hours. 2:22 PM – Home, Cleveland Heights

He typed up a list of items he had made note of last weekend, rooting around in his mother’s attic in Lakewood. The boy was on the couch, reading. Quarantine might be good for something after all.

3:21 PM – Mom’s House, Lakewood

His mother had died in January. They’d made plans to sell her things, her house, but that had been put on hold. His brother and family had driven all the way from the Twin Cities in one day to stay at that house, and go over her things.

He drove from his house in Cleveland Heights. Cars like were closed, atmospheric chambers, safe transportation vessels. Driving, he felt something like normalcy. Then he saw all the people at Edgewater, milling about without masks on and thought, “What the fuck is wrong with those people?”

4:07 PM – Mom’s House, Lakewood

He and his brother took a break from sorting through boxes. They were in the backyard, in the garden behind their mom’s garage. They stood apart and drank beer and talked about family. A neighbor came over to the fence to say hi. He and his brother were sorry/not sorry about not shaking hands. The neighbor told them their mom came over shortly after he and his wife had moved in, with photos of their house,the neighbors', from back in the day.

Mom grew up here, in her house in Lakewood, one that had been in his family since 1940. Eighty years.

He missed her every day, but he was grateful she wasn’t part of this.

4:51 PM – Mom’s House, Lakewood

They went through photos, so many photos. Some very old photos. It was just as well he was already wearing rubber gloves.

6:49 PM – Mom’s House, Lakewood

The rest of his family arrived in the other car with carry out. They dined al fresco, on that gorgeous spring evening, cool but bright, seated six feet apart in his children’s grandmother’s backyard. The neighbor on the other side introduced herself, too. She told lovely stories of how his mom and her daughter, the neighbor’s, would chat as his mom tended the garden.

He kept reminding his brother to keep his mask above his nostrils.

9:10 PM – Shoreway, Cleveland

He and his daughter talked as they drove back to the east side. She was worried her senior soccer season would be canceled. She would be a captain this year, and they’d already made plans how to continue team building traditions while keeping social distance.

They took the Shoreway, which at night feels like flying over the city. His daughter spied The Q. She just knew the Harry Styles concert was going to be rescheduled. His kids had been taking all of this so much better than he thought he would have at their age. Or was now.

11:15 PM – Home, Cleveland Heights

He and his wife returned to their couch, before the fire. They sat in silence, sipped whiskey, and read. Tomorrow would be much the same.

UPDATE: Literary Cleveland published the completed, final essay in Cleveland Scene on Tuesday, June 16, as well as an interactive map featuring all 140 submissions from this project.

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