The trip to the shore didn’t pan out as planned. For the last couple of weeks, the aunt has had a persistent sore throat resulting in a whisper-deep voice. Employing the “use it or lose it theory,” we diagnosed it as the result of not talking to many people during her veritable isolation in her retirement community. We prescribed standing in her doorway to talk to neighbors and do more of her customary singing about her apartment. The doctor, however, disagreed. Laryngitis, he said. Don’t talk and sing at all for at least a week. Resigned, the aunt decided it was best to stay at home until she felt better. Depressing for her. Equally for us, and very worrying, not quite on board with the laryngitis opinion. Another god damn Covid moment.
Sue texted: “Come to the shore, anyway.”
“I don’t know.”
“It’ll be good for you.”
I thought about it and texted her I would come.
Her next text said: “I have included a friend in my covid bubble. Are you all right with her coming down?”
Me: “Ummmmm not really.”
“She’s a nurse. Can she come to the beach only? She doesn’t see patients.”
Sue: “I know this is your first trip outside your own bubble. It’ll be okay.”
Believing in my big sister: “Now plotting how to do pee stops on the road….” (Family trait: pea-size bladder.)
Sue: “Don’t do them don’t drink anything.”
That very night, the evening news screamed about outbreaks across the country! States considering shutting down again! President saying everything is fine! Experts warning we’re headed down the tubes!!
Me: “So the evening news is freaking me out. I’m staying here… I hate this. I really want to get out of Brooklyn.”
Sue: “You will be fine. I promise.”
Faith in my big sister: “I’ll be there.”
On the way down, I disobeyed her two times for bathroom stops but scoured skin with soap and hand sanitizer then spritzed all car surfaces with Clorex bathroom cleaner (only type left in stores). Upon arrival, and after four and a half months of not seeing her, I reflectively went to hug Sue. She leaped back.
“None of that,” she said in her big sister tone. Her friend walked in, stood across the room for introductions.
“To the beach?” Sue said.
And off to the beach we went with chairs, umbrella and a chilled bottle of wine. Social distancing was being observed across the sand, the spot we chose to set up remote from everyone else. It was an exhilarating pure crystalline-sky beach day, the water warm, waves big enough to surface.
Back at our little circle, for the next several hours I listened to the two nurses share stories about their students’ experiences working in emergency rooms, theories on what will happen in the fall, and a debate about why turning patients on their stomachs has been such an effective treatment. They used a bunch of terms and descriptions of body parts I couldn’t follow. Unfortunately, everything about hellish emergency rooms and dire forecasts were perfectly understandable.
Tip: If you want to have a relaxing time away from it all, refrain from hanging around medical professionals for possibly the next year.
And so the day went until the lifeguards departed. Back at the house, my sister did her usual: Served a delicious appetife and hors d’oeuvre.
Dinner was lobsters and the first crop of New Jersey tomatoes and corn.
We spend a long time around the porch table, casually talking about family and the failure of a climbing hydrangea to take root in Sue’s garden. The only rush was to walk across the street to view the sunset and gossip about the owners of the newly constructed big gaudy houses around Sue’s tiny old house.
My sister, as always, kept her promise to me. The trip outside my bubble was curative. Being with her after so long raised my spirits. Nothing is more therapeutic than the natural world.
Then a parade ambled by, an estimated 80 laughing young people celebrating the 21st birthday of the daughter of the man who led them to a nearby restaurant. Packed together, arms around shoulders. Not a mask in sight.
The two nurses kept themselves from screaming. The little sister slammed back into reality and the next day sped up the turnpike and back into her bubble.