You enter the kitchen through the basement door.
I’m sitting at the table reading over half-written essays.
I look at the clock and see that it’s 7:43 AM.
I walk towards you, but I cannot hug you
because COVID won’t allow it.
Its undetectability and stealth attack change our marriage’s ancient ritual: saying hello.
You stand still, hold your arms out, and offer a sweet smile.
It’s your way to say, “Honey, I’m home.”
I wink and nod to say, “Good morning. I love you.”
After 18 years, words aren’t always necessary.
Only today, I wish they were.
I miss the days when we’d rush towards each other,
hold one another tight and laugh.
I miss kissing your lips.
I miss your lips kissing mine.
I miss feeling your face stubble scratch my soft cheek.
I miss the tiny twinge of sadness I’d feel when one of us let go.
I was usually the first to let go.
It’s been three months since we embraced when either of us entered the house.
We agreed that no touching until we shower is what’s best for our safety,
Safety we thought we had.
Safety we though we understood.
Safety we are privileged to have.
Safety that we understand differently now.
You leave more than I do.
You come home more than I do.
You respond first, and more than I do.
I walk past you to start the laundry you tossed into the machine.
Your uniform is bunched on one side of the agitator
as if it’s too tired to stretch itself for a proper wash.
I see this in you today, but I won’t say it aloud.
I reach for the detergent and splatter it on your clothes–
Dark blue soap soaks through your light blue shirt, oozes down that famous FDNY patch, and pools into your pants pocket–
You forgot to call so I’d know you’d be on your way home.
I want to put the soap in the machine properly, but it’s too late now and
it’s not important, because I forgot to unbunch your uniform anyway.