January through March is a lump of sugar cookie dough rolled out on the counter and then smushed back into a ball. In that ball two things happened simultaneously: I got back together with my boyfriend and the city went into lockdown. Sometime in there, Waxahatchee released Saint Cloud. I played the album over and over for weeks in my bedroom/office because it was easier to let something loop than to make any deliberate choices. The Sonos interface, unlike Spotify, doesn’t start riffing when an album or playlist finishes; it just starts it over again from the beginning. I ordered three desks that never showed up. My roommate and I bought the entire liquor store and drank it in a week. We finished our first box of wine and slapped the bag with gusto, spewing rosé all over our chins. “This is college!” We shouted, skipping in circles around our living room. Even the beginning of something awful feels novel at first.
“Played the album” is a mischaracterization of my situation. More accurately: I woke up each day and Saint Cloud was on. I ate my little eggs and typed on my little computer and had my little virtual therapy sessions and Saint Cloud followed me around through all of it. Sooner or later it was accidentally a soundtrack to my quarantine. We didn’t know yet that this could happen . The first time I listened to Saint Cloud with what you could call “attention” was Monday night, when Katie Crutchfield performed it from her house on a webcam. I watched it on the TV my mom got for my two-month stay in Houston and FaceTimed Brendan through it. Some technical error on my end meant that his stream, playing through the phone, was nine Mississippis ahead of mine, even with the lag, so really something more like twelve or so Mississippis. I looked away at one point and when I looked back, Brendan had turned himself into a shark with stars for eyes! Then his phone overheated from abusing the FaceTime Effects feature.
I couldn’t tell you anything about March or April if I tried. I look at my Instagram grid from that time with disgust. What was I doing? Photosynthesizing maybe, slapping bags, listening to Saint Cloud constantly but not in any particular way. I hung a shelf sometime this year. I moved my birthday party, originally scheduled for March 27, the same day Saint Cloud came out according to Google, to June 20. Ha ha! The notification came up on my phone recently and I felt intruded upon when I noticed the CDC inserted a message at the top of the event page, warning me against holding any large gatherings. Does the amount of friends I have count as a “large gathering?” Of course I didn’t have the party.
In the beginning, Brendan and I sometimes broke the rules by pressure washing Citi Bikes with bleach and riding to each other’s apartments. A condition of getting back together was a refusal to “fall back into comfortable routines.” Boy oh boy, what were we thinking?, as they say. At my apartment Saint Cloud buzzed him in and he’d march around singing in what I think is his falsetto. “IF MY BONES ARE MADE OF DELICATE SUUUUUGAR!!!!” he’d go.
Remember all those live streams? In the “we’re making cocktails” phase, I walked into the kitchen and my roommate was watching a comedy show on Instagram. I watched it with her. I don’t even like comedy shows! You could spend a whole day witnessing once-in-a-lifetime occurrences play out on your phone/computer for free. Aleks’s tweets autodelete but I swear to god he tweeted something in the March/April period that was like, “there are too many damn lives!”, in reference to the celebrities broadcasting on Instagram. The miniature Aleks in my brain read this to me in his voice over and over. I didn’t see him for two months; the first time was in May, and he was standing in his bedroom window like Juliet and I was standing next to my brand new bike on his street.
“When you get baaaaaack ooon the M train / Watch the cityyyyyy muuuutate” is the first line of Saint Cloud’s titular song. “Is that about our M train?” I asked Brendan once. What other M train would there be, I guess.
Like everyone else in the world I sometimes think about my lasts. The last time I rode the train was on March 18 to (of all places!) Herald Square, to pick up the last Nintendo Switch available on planet Earth from hell’s own Target. I felt like the minigame in Mario Party where you’re running from the chompy things until there’s only one man standing. I was coming from Brendan’s and carrying my cello, which I’d left at his apartment after seeing his band play a week earlier (my last concert). I had my cello at his concert because I came straight from a cello lesson (my last cello lesson); I was late, and I had to run from the G train all the way up to the very tip of Greenpoint (the last time I ran somewhere because I was running late) to make it in time.
Why “last?” Things we’ll never do again? Things that will feel very different the next time we do them? Or worse, just the same? My mom answered the siren call to watch Hamilton the other night and the whole time I wanted to shake Lin Manuel Miranda by his shoulders and tell him Hey stop singing right into everybody’s face!!!! The performance happened in 2016, the prehistoric era. “I’m watching a tv show where they’re in social settings and stuff and I’m like creeped out by it,” Brendan texted me. I feel this way too. Will I want to stand in a crowd singing songs before he does? What will be a crowd?
On the local news in Houston this morning there was a segment on athleisure. A woman show-and-telled the inside of her closet, her tidy little stack of jeans next to racks of leggings and sweatpants. I wouldn’t personally put sweats in a closet—those are for drawers—but I don’t know her situation; maybe she doesn’t have a dresser, maybe she just misses the sensation of opening a closet door and selecting an outfit. Every day I look at bike shorts on the internet.
Last night I sat for nearly two full minutes in my mom’s backyard without any music playing, just listening to mosquitos sucking the life out of me and the grasshoppers and locusts going to town in the trees overhead. Meditating? Interviewed in the New Yorker recently by Jia Tolentino, Katie Crutchfield said “It’s been good to see, after moving so much all the time for so long, that I can stay still.”