Quarantine Observations

Beginning of May

I slump with a tired, sore sigh into the Tommy Bahama beach chair—a matching set. Ryan, my husband, laughed when we bought them, saying they officially made us old.

The chairs perch, blue and beach-ready on the anti-sand mat covering a piece of dirt in the yard where the new grass didn’t take.

I’m drinking a cold Dos XX that’s precious in a way I couldn’t have imagined three months ago. 

Before alcohol was prohibited on the island.

Before checked bags at the ferry and arranged bootleg drop offs. 

Before masks and checkpoints.

Before seven weeks in quarantine.

It feels like I could part the air with my fingertips. The humidity is a held breath in a closed mouth.

The sky darkens, and I hear thunder for the first time in over two months.

We’re in the midst of a drought. The trees are so dry they droop, exhausted in the heat. 

A few scattered patters, and my heart dares to hope. 

There are wild fires on the mainland. 

We awoke at 4 a.m., choked by the smell of woodsmoke. 

The Cancun coast was invisible behind a thick haze.

Acrid smoke made the baby cough, and we kept windows and doors closed rather than welcoming in the morning, like we usually do.

Thunder reverberates, and the skies let loose their watery burden. Just like that, it’s raining. 

The west wind blows the air clean, and water washes away weeks of dust, soot, bird feathers, and a bit of my angst.

I’ve been fantasizing about the smell of earth and rain mingling. 

As the rain pours down, I stay in my chair, letting it run across my upturned face.

For this moment, it is enough.

***

One Month Later

Mourning doves call, echoing voices to the east, and south. 

My phone filters in the news—a trickle or a torrent depending on my self control. 

It feels so far away from it all here, in my walled backyard. 

The President of Mexico visited The Island this morning. Two miles down the road, we didn’t notice a thing. 

Ryan mowed the lawn, we played with Callan, and I made pancakes for breakfast. 

But all the while my heart ached and I tried not to think of the stories, scrolling like a newsfeed through my mind:

looting; 

police shooting at protestors;

“I can’t breathe!”

Cities burning;

A whirlwind of pain, confusion, fear, and frustration riding on a tidal wave that’s been picking up speed for hundreds of years.

I want to march.

I want to scream.

I want to cry and pound my fists in frustration watching history repeat itself. 

But here, on Isla Mujeres, a breeze reaches its breath from one side of the island to the other, knocking brown leaves off the Zapote tree, to fall on the ground at my feet.

A mosquito bursts bright blood—my blood—onto my leg and palm where I hit as it bites. 

Ripe fruit dangles from the cirhuela tree.

Cirhuela Fruit
Cirhuela Fruit

A tropical storm is coming, and the air hangs heavy.

Thousands of miles away from my loved ones working in hospitals on the Covid frontlines; walking the protest front lines.

I’m left with words, and anxiety. A cellphone that brings me news, and a baby boy about to wake up from his nap. 

The view of the Caribbean from Isla Mujeres South Point
The view of the Caribbean from Isla Mujeres South Point

Last Day of July

I’m not sure how it’s possible time can go so fast, and so slow simultaneously.

July seems to have disappeared in a blink.

I’m working on learning to focus. Zoom in on the tiny, wonderful, or just good things in front of me.

The perfection in homemade sourdough bread, buttery avocado, creamy-soft hard boiled egg, and the bright burst of sea salt across my tongue.

I’m trying to focus on what I can control.

So many deep breaths.

Spontaneous dancing in the living room.

Appreciating the way the house sounds, when everyone else is asleep.

Glorying in a moment of shared laughter.

Tonight, I watch the moon rise above my husband, who’s singing and playing. It’s a scene so familiar and beloved.

Goosebumps rise on my arms as he sings a love song to me, and my heart feels bigger, fuller, than it has in a long time.

Despite the masks, the signs, the hand sanitizer on every table, in this moment there’s a taste of “the before days” and I try to hold there. 

I try to still the worries, the constant ache, the anxiety that lurks on the periphery. 

All of that is true. But so is this moment. 

This feeling. 

Our love, my husband’s music, and a Caribbean full moon.

Ryan Rickman playing at El Patio on Isla Mujeres
Ryan Rickman playing at El Patio on Isla Mujeres
The Rickman Family
The Rickman Family

Author: Rachel Mills

Rachel Mills is a freelance writer/writing consultant/English Professor/Creative nonfiction writer from Michigan's Upper Peninsula living on the island of Isla Mujeres in Mexico.

12 thoughts on “Quarantine Observations”

  1. These thoughts are woven together beautifully, capturing a heartfelt, personal picture of this difficult time.

  2. Loving it! Thank you for sharing. The sentence: “The humidity is a held breath in a closed mouth,” I felt it. And the “before days,” yes, I think of them too. Beautiful. Evocative. Keep at it and keep sharing. Love the photos of the fam. Love and Hugs!

  3. It’s always a pleasure to read your crafty and heartfelt words Rachel! A feeding from jezebels table is good for the ☀️ and the soul! 😘 never more resonant that … today … today is all we have ; ) Your making yours count and leaving proof ❤️
    Shells 🐚

  4. Rachel, you’ve captured at all. I love how you’ve woven together the huge turmoil and the homey particular. Good writing, friend! Thank you for this.

    1. “It” or “At” I thank you so very very much for your words and for reading. I hope so much we can read each others’ writing in person soon!!

  5. Your writing always settles around my shoulders. This piece is no exception. The rush of time at a standstill has, if nothing else, reminded us that it is still possible to savor single moments…even as so many seem to be much like every other. You have found a way to exist in the world that is, and your words remind me that I can too. I love you.

    1. Thank you thank you for your beautiful response Ann. I’m always moved by what you have to say, and your insights. I think of you so often. You also share the pain of missing someone you love.
      I love you.

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