Spring has come to our gardens. My husband is in the living room, in the spot beside the big window that looks out at the newly budded trees. He's doing painstaking research across scientific databases and geo-tagging specimens from the museum's ichthyology collection. At the other end of the house, my niece is in her room video conferencing with her bosses and coworkers. I can hear their voices brainstorming stories for the travel website for which my niece is the digital editorial coordinator, at a time when no one is traveling.
I am in the middle of the apartment, at the desk in front of the window in my bedroom, taking a break from transcribing tapes my subject sent to my Dropbox. In them, she offers her overall reactions to the manuscript. Did I mention that I turned in the completed first draft on the day after my birthday? We will go through it chapter by chapter after this, and do line edits, as well as layering in anything she might want to add. My subject's agent said he "loved" the manuscript. I have on tape the call on which he used words like "enthralling," "emotionally impactful" and "a page turner,” which is good because I can't really take in that he spoke those words. My subject hasn't been anywhere near as affirming. I know her by now though. She’s a beautiful stoic. Why waste time talking about what's working? Let's get straight to the fixing. She’s efficient that way. Still, I’m trying to manage the doubt and insecurity that I’m wrestling with right now. I’m trying to remember that I understood from the start that she would find it disconcerting to confront her private self bared to the world. It takes a minute to process, to feel safe. I'm trying to locate the feeling of being safe, too.
At 7 o'clock each evening, we all pause in whatever we are doing and throw open the windows so we can hear the cacophony of air horns and banged pots and whistles and shouts and bicycle bells and car horns, making a nightly racket in celebration of the nurses and other health care workers changing shifts for the night. This has been going on since the end of March, and every night, the people at their windows, on their terraces, on the sidewalks, in their cars, hooting and cheering, the holy racket the entire city makes, brings me almost to tears. It just never gets old.