There shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
I woke up with dried blood on my lips. This was the first sign that something was wrong. It was March, the month that everything was wrong. Outside my kitchen window the sky was gray, still cold, Brooklyn-bleak. I had just left my marriage, and at nights I drank wine in bed and listened to podcasts so that I wouldn’t have to sit with my thoughts. I hadn’t noticed anything strange when I got out of bed, not even the slight taste of iron in my mouth. It came together when I caught sight of myself in the bathroom mirror while the coffee boiled on the stove. My lips and every tooth in my mouth were caked in a gluey, rust-brown film of blood. There was no cut on my lip. My gums were healthy. But I had neck pain and back pain and shoulder pain, a tension headache, a lump on my lip. I had been grinding my teeth, and I had ground so hard that I’d made myself bleed.
The next day we were all fired. The bookstore where I’d worked for six years had been told to shut, as had all nonessential businesses in New York City. The writers festival for which I was due to travel back to Australia was canceled. From bed I did an interview with a journalist in London about climate change in contemporary literature and tried to stay calm. The grocery store was out of nearly everything, the subway was empty, no masks or hand sanitizer were to be found. The call came out from the mayor’s office. Shelter in place.
“Shelter in place.” But I wasn’t sure where my “place” was meant to be. I was already in a state of transition and flux. I had a flight booked to Sydney. I took it. That week ushered in the two constants of my life this past year: displacement, teeth grinding. Read More