Charlie walks just twice a day now. We take the stairs to the lobby and hurry out the front door. At first, he was afraid of the concrete, painted to a shine. Slick. Not like his steps in the park, the pretty flagstone, the grip under his feet. It is good that we live on the fourth floor. He manages the three flights. He manages them better than I.
My daughters and I have been inside since last Wednesday, nine days ago. I had the feeling in my belly walking home that day, the feeling that it was time to come in. To stay in. This past summer, both of my daughters decided to move home for a bit, one after graduating from college, the other to take a new job and apply for her Master’s. For the previous four years, I lived in Apartment 4A with just Charlie, missing my girls, so far away they were from New York. We have done well, navigating a small space, appreciating different habits, as we did, really, throughout their growing up in our house in Texas. They have come to like the city, finding work that they love, figuring out the subway, finding a friend or two. I am relieved that they are here now, that we are together, despite the tight quarters. My mystical side would have me believe that they somehow knew to be here.
On the sidewalk, Charlie trots quickly, the new routine already settled in his bones. We turn the corner only in the morning, when the street is empty. I keep my eyes peeled. A figure looms down the block. Hurry, Charlie. Everyone’s a virus. In we go, up the steps, careful not to slip and fall.