Tangled Up in Blue: AM/FM

I woke up to the sound of a stranger crying and decided to go directly back to bed. It was a pang of depressing abnormality in a shockingly normal week.

My old school AM/FM alarm clock is tuned to NPR, sending me into a tizzy of news at 7:30 a.m. Over the course of the past few weeks (or do we refer to this timeline in months now?) the news has all been the same.

“Here is where we’re at with the coronavirus today,” repeating with small bits of new information interspersed. Like late last week, when the news highlighted that some mandates were being lifted in Alaska. I could travel between communities and congregate with small groups outside. I could loosen up, just a little.

And so I did, by having a normal week.

I went out to Ptarmigan Trail and ran the six or so miles, catching up with friends along the way. They, too, were just out and about, having a normal day. We talked about future plans with an air of caution, but it felt good to make them, and then we parted ways with a, “See you later!”

Another day this week, I hiked to the top of Slaughter Ridge in Cooper Landing. The trail was perfect, the company great and the vista proved to be its normal, stunning self. We had conversations with fellow hikers passing by and shared more pleasantries about trail conditions than pandemics.

On a different normal afternoon, Patrick and I played catch on his front lawn for over an hour. We threw the softball back and forth, with a few misses and overthrows interspersed, in a calming repetition that we’ve come to crave.

Over the course of our dating history, we had never picked up our gloves for a quick catch until quarantine but I had grown up throwing a softball on my front lawn. And now, I find myself tossing the ball again — some normalcy from my past proving useful.

The weather has been stunning on the Kenai Peninsula during this normal week. My legs and throwing arm are sore and I find myself feeling happy, content.

I’ve climbed mountains, ran trails and found comfort in consistency.

Things were normal, until I woke up to the sound of a woman who has lost so much that her devastation was palpable through the AM/FM radio that sits beside my bed.

I listened to her bemoan her losses — her business, her mother, life as she knew it — for as long as I could stand it, before I rolled over and turned the radio off and shut my eyes again.

My week may have left me feeling like it was late April in any other year of my life, but this is 2020. My parents are in New Jersey, experiencing an intense lockdown like nothing I could imagine. My friends and peers are learning to navigate unemployment or working to their wits’ end in essential roles. I’m lucky to have anything to grasp onto that resembles my life before the coronavirus.

A spell of good weather and a game of catch can’t make this world normal again, but for a brief moment before waking up, it was nice to pretend.


For the Clarion