The Heavy Pour

Journal of a Plague Spring

This column is a reprint from Unwinnable Monthly #128. If you like what you see, grab the magazine for less than ten dollars, or subscribe and get all future magazines for half price.

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Three fingers of analysis when two will do.

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March 11, 2020

You were screaming at us when we first met you, so angry that we even dared to inhabit any space next to yours. You made it clear that we should get to gettin’ on if we knew half of what was good for us, but we stood and stared you down until you ran out of steam. We walked to the next room and you eventually showed up too, led by a shelter volunteer, docile as a lamb.

We played out this moment in miniature again and again in the first months you lived with us – you’d decide a space was yours and threaten and shout until we showed you that yes, yes, it was yours – and sometimes ours, too – but definitely yours and definitely for keeps. You slow-learned to share with us and sometimes even tried to be in the exact same space as one of us, covering our whole head with your longing for a secure affection. We let you and gave it.

You kept it too; kept it close and stopped screaming at us entirely once you knew you had it, which is why you barely blinked when we took you to the place at the end, to the space that was brighter and cleaner than the first place we met you, but had the exact same smell. This time I tried to occupy the same space as you, trying to will any fear you felt into myself – I wanted to take it all on and scream for you, just the way you used to scream for yourself. But you just let me hold your whole head until you were sleepy then silent, no breath to scream or laugh or cry, so I held your head and cried for you and for me and for your papa and everyone else who ever had or ever would lose their best friend this way. I held your whole head and stayed in your space for as long as I could until you were all the way gone – and then some more time after that – and let you go from my hands and that space and this world.

April 1, 2020

One small thing I’d do right now is run to the reservoir near my apartment and lie in the grass. I can’t remember where we are regarding outdoor exercise – I’ve been holed up inside since I realized this was serious, which was a few days before everyone else – more than a few days for some. My asthma’s bad enough that I’ve gone to the ER for breathing treatments from complications from a run-of-the-mill cold or flu, and when I was fourteen I was sick enough for the respiratory therapists to consider intubation. I’m terrified of getting Covid and dying.

I used to run because it made me feel like I was beating the weakness out of my body, like every race complete was a deposit in the bank of my pulmonary health, like every step was a step away from the disease ruling my life. But then I hurt my knee and couldn’t run for months, and I was reminded that I’m just a body after all.

This virus wants to remind me that I’m just a body after all – I’ve been searching for a first-hand account of an asthmatic treating Covid successfully at home – what would a “mild” case look like for one of us? But it seems such a thing doesn’t exist.

This virus wants to remind me that I’m just a body after all…

My best bet seems to be to stay healthy for as long as possible, until there’s a good treatment or a vaccine, though those things seem a world away and unattainable. So now I wonder when I’ll run again and focus on the fact that my knee got better. I was weak but now I’m stronger. Maybe I can still bend and not break.

April 22, 2020

Someone recently asked me if I ever revealed a secret I was never supposed to tell. The only ones of those I can think of are my own, which is not to say I’ve never betrayed anyone’s trust because I’m sure I have, I just can’t recall the specifics. Okay, there’s one instance I remember where I told someone’s secret and all hell broke loose but the person in question wouldn’t want me spilling the beans about it now, even in a silly little notebook that no one is going to read.

Probably. I suppose I could become famous for something (hopefully writing, but it seems famous people don’t always get to choose what they actually get famous for), but I suppose I could become famous for something in the next few months and then die from Covid-19 or whatever the next worse thing is and then my husband will find this notebook and sell it to Penguin Classics – (listen, they published Morrissey’s memoir under the imprint, the standards are broad) – he could sell it to Penguin Classics and they could package it Sara Clemens: Letters and Journals and put one of my drawings on the cover (note to Babe: make sure it’s a cool one, not one where I messed up and there’s a ton of eraser marks), so they’ll put one of my drawings on the cover and get someone like Paul Reubens to write the preface because I’ve been obsessed with Pee-wee for over three decades and won’t shut up about it (note to Babe: please make them get Paul Reubens, I would just die – well, I mean I would just die if I were still alive, but obviously that clown has left the circus, so), so someone like Paul Reubens would write the preface and then it would go off like gangbusters because I would have been super famous and the cover would have a cool drawing and Pee-wee has a way of grabbing attention even now, and then people will read this and think, oh wow what was the secret and who was it about, kicking off a literary mystery for my fans to puzzle over long into the future, or at least until the next worse thing hits and everyone has to worry about that and the next famous pandemic/WWIII/climate-disaster writer gets their journal published in a Penguin Classics anthology with a cool drawing on the cover and a preface written by whoever the current Paul Reubens is (or maybe a cybernetic Paul Reubens) and it turns out in a satisfying twist that they were the person who’s secret I told before the world turned upside down and they’ve put pen to paper to finally set that record straight and satisfy readers all the post-apocalyptic world over.

And Penguin Classics will repackage the two volumes together in a handsome hardcover slipcase, available Spring 2025. Preorder now!

May 31, 2020

My dog George has breath that smells of overripe onions and shit. When we adopted him from the shelter he was fourteen years young and the front half of his mouth was spiked with rotten teeth. We were worried the cost to have them pulled would wipe us out financially, but fortunately the shelter had a friendly relationship with a neighborhood vet and were so enthusiastic about seeing a senior adopted that they had it taken care of before we picked him up to take home. They also had a soft spot for us, since we had successfully become the proud dog parents of Monty, George’s big-younger brother (RIP) who was a real handful and proved to be hard to place before we entered the scene with a potent mix of first-dog-owners naivete and, in my case, a videogamer’s tenacity for puzzle-solving.

We picked George up right after the surgery, while he was still sleepy and marble-eyed, wondering if this was real life. As he healed his personality fully emerged, and it became clear a consummate flirt had joined the family. When my husband takes him to the dog park, he returns with dispatches of George’s peacocking.

“He tried to go home with two ladies today, just started following behind them as they walked out of the park,” he’ll say, throwing George some side-eye, “are you our dog or not?”

They still go to the park, even now, and the stay-at-home order has afforded them the luxury of going nearly every morning. We’re so very careful, so if he gets pet by anyone outside the house – and he will vigorously make the rounds demanding pets, throwing his body down dramatically at the feet of anyone willing to deliver belly rubs – he goes straight into the bath when they get home. Five days out of seven, I emerge from my dreams to the sound of the kitchen sink, where my husband is spraying down a trembling George.

The shivers are mostly for show – he knows he’ll be wrapped in a soft blanket and get extra cuddles from me. Afterward, his coat smells of heaven. The shampoo we use is scented by something so achingly familiar that my inability to place it drove me nuts for weeks, until finally I recognized it as lily of the valley, the flower for May babies like me. Now I smell those blooms on his coat every day until his breath, which remained rotten and raw even after his surgery, brings me back to the world and him and our home, reminding me we’re all still bodies, alive and stinking.

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Sara Clemens thinks too much about things, generally. They run a site called Videodame and retweet stuff on Twitter @thesaraclemens.

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