I made it. I fucking made it. I almost didn’t. Funny how I looked forward to the almost-daily video chats with my then seven-year-old nephew more than my then-deployed boyfriend’s texts or calls, even after his return. My nephew’s calls are a big part of what kept me going. He chatted my ears off, showed off his Five Nights of Freddy figurines one by one and made me watch him as he played educational games on his mother’s laptop. It was our virtual quality time.
2020 was a trying year worldwide. Several countries got their acts together sooner than the United States. Covid cases and deaths are spiking and still somehow reaching record highs. Like millions of Americans, I was able to perform my Corporate America job from home. New York being the US epicenter, I was paranoid to leave my Brooklyn apartment, checking the mail and throwing out the trash every few days instead of daily, grocery shopping every two weeks and doing laundry once a month. My lack of sun exposure led to Vitamin D deficiency. I now take prescription strength supplements.
Paranoia aside, I mustered the courage to vote in the primary and main elections. I attended my first protest. The daily protests dominated the news cycle after the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and several others. I called a friend, made a Black Lives Matter sign, donned a mask and joined. I was more fearful of catching Covid than I was of the out-of-control cops. I made my sign on a felt tip board. I lost the “I” in Black Lives Matter. I didn’t notice until I got home.
Home took on a whole new meaning this year. I’m an introvert who loves going to the movies, concerts, comedy shows, plays, author events and other social gatherings where I don’t have to be social. Being forced to be homebound was more difficult than I expected. Pre-covid, I’d sometimes cozy up in my apartment after work Friday evening and not emerge until Monday morning for work. But this…this was different. I was scared and happy to see strangers when I rarely ventured outside. My living room lived up to its name. Without pause, it became my office, boardroom, gym, dining room, classroom, movie theater, and bedroom. I’d knock out on the couch. Every. Evening. The floorboards where I work out creak when I walk over them.
As much I loved this art deco couch when I purchased it years ago, I want to burn it once this pandemic is over. For the most part, my glass dining table, desk and queen-sized bed were ignored. I worked, ate, drank, read, wrote, slept, cried, laughed, binge-watched, undressed, dressed, moisturized, face-masked, pedicured, unboxed, folded laundry, spilled, bled, drooled, sweated, therapy-sessioned, day-dreamed and spaced out on my couch. There’s only so much disinfectant spray and steam cleaning can do. Its firmness is almost nonexistent.
I left my living room and visited my Boston family once, flying on September 11th, after a series of breakdowns on my living room floor. I quarantined aka “sheltered-in-place” alone this whole pandemic. I spent every holiday alone in this living room. Struggling to stay positive, on Easter, my birthday, Thanksgiving and Christmas, I selected a pretty, colorful outfit—with heels and dangly earrings, and a crown on my birthday—cooked a feast grand enough for relatives you see only once a year and want to impress, grabbed my ring light tripod stand, set my phone’s camera timer and acted as Creative Director of my own photoshoot. My food, my smile and I look damn good in the photos. There were tears before and after. Each. And. Every. Time. Christmas, I wore a Grinch sweatshirt and an elf hat, posed with my Grinch tree from Trader Joe’s, ordered Chinese food, and spiked my Southern Comfort vanilla egg nog with a generous pouring of Barbancourt Haitian rum. I watched Home Alone 1 & 2. There were tears.
Last New Year’s Eve (2019), with hours to spare, I copped a ticket to a show at Gotham Comedy Club. I Febrezed an all-black outfit that was at least 10 years old and in the back of the closet, slapped on red lipstick and showed up to the venue. I didn’t want to ring in the New Year alone and on my couch. I was seated with an older lesbian couple who did not treat me like a third wheel. With hours to spare before 2021, my friend downstairs rescued me from the fate of being alone on my couch. He invited me to join his family.
As I do every New Year’s Eve, I cooked a pot of soup joumou. On January 1, 1804, enslaved Haitians defeated Napoleon’s French army to become the first free republic. We eat soup to commemorate the victory of Haitian Independence Day. I cleaned the bathroom and kitchen, took a shower and exfoliated from head to toe with a strawberry orange sugar scrub, moisturized with sweet smelling body butter, slid on black leggings with sequined tuxedo stripes down each leg, a fuzzy white sweater with silver sparkles, and headed downstairs with an I-don’t-know-how-old bottle of champagne. It was 11:32 pm.
I rang in the New Year with my downstairs neighbors, who had been dealt a terrible blow days before Christmas. The friend who invited me went up the street, so I was with his two brothers, a friend of theirs, and my friend’s adorable twin nephews, who painfully reminded me of their late grandfather, my landlord of over ten years. If they could smile, so could I. My landlady was in bed. They couldn’t work the TV to watch the Times Square ball drop. At midnight, I held a red cup of warm champagne and a cool can of black cherry White Claw hard seltzer. Minutes after screaming “Happy New Year!”, I stopped by my landlady’s bedroom to hug and kiss her before heading back up to my apartment to return the phone call of my always first callers, my aunt and goddaughter. After them, I spoke to a cousin as I zipped up my red and black lumberjack onesie with a hood and footies. I fielded group and solo texts with Gifs galore as I tuned to Netflix. After binge-watching two series (Bridgerton and The Queen’s Gambit) in less than a week, I set my sights on Tiny Pretty Things. I’d read the books a few months ago in anticipation of the show. With three buttered King’s Hawaiian rolls, I was ready to jump in.
No fancy outfit. No photoshoot. No selfies. No resolutions. In 2020, I attended virtual writing workshops, submitted to contests and publications. I posted daily for Instagram book challenges. I walked away from a relationship and sought a new one. I Zoomed with family and friends for birthdays and trivia game nights. I did yoga, Barre, boxing, weight-lifting, and oh-so-many damn squats, lunges, and burpees. I spent too much money, but also saved. I consumed half my weight in King’s Hawaiian rolls and rum punch. I ordered lots of Thai and Soul Food, an air fryer, food processor, mixer, cake, donut and muffin pans, jars of body butters, bars of soap, tubs of sugar scrubs, tubes and packets of detoxifying and hydrating face masks, books, pens, journals, hoodies, loungewear, masks, toilet paper, paper towels, bleach, rubbing alcohol, antibacterial gel, and Lysol. I washed my groceries, let packages de-Corona for a week in the hallway before opening, and took a brain-tickling Covid test. In 2021, I will continue to survive.