Why Being in Isolation is Not Like Being in Jail

Written by Christine Brooks for the collection: 'Life in the time of #COVID'.


As the US closes its borders, restaurants, schools and retail stores, more people than ever, it seems, have taken to social media to express their feelings. One of the common themes I have noticed, is people saying they feel like they are in jail. I for one can tell you it isn’t anything like that.


This past Wednesday, when I returned from a quick surf trip in Rhode Island to my hometown of Springfield, Massachusetts, the grip of the Coronavirus was evident. St. Patrick's Day parades were canceled, bars and restaurants closed and we were all sternly asked to stay home whenever possible.

When I arrived at the home I share with my 83-year-old father, he told me his American Legion Post 420 closed and he was already anxious about being home —indefinitely.


The next day my employer asked us all to stay home whenever possible and I knew as I drove home at noon that everything after that moment would be entirely different than it was just days before.

As retail stores closed by the hour and an unofficial shelter in place, was in place, we prepared for a national quarantine that was imminent.


Nieces, nephews, and friends called my father daily asking if he needed anything and if he felt okay. My cousin, Mary, arrived with beer, wine, and acetaminophen for us, just in case. My father dusted off the patio set, poured our cocktails, and planned projects for the yard.


"We can get on top of the rogue bamboo this year so it doesn't overtake the corner of the yard," he said noticing the small red bulbs already poking through the damp ground.


"Yes, absolutely. Let's dig up some of the Hostas along the garage and plant them on the side of the house, " I added.


Both projects we did every year but, in a rush, and usually far into the summer when it was a chore and not much fun at all.


We topped off the bird-feeder and watched the hungry, but cautious, Sparrows fill their round bellies in delight.


The sun was warm and the air a breezy 58 degrees. We watched as small jet planes flew overhead and imagined air traffic would grow as the Coronavirus gained strength. Even as a burst of rain splashed against the glass patio table, we breathed in the spring air and watched my dog, Clancy, run around the yard blissfully unaware of why we had been home for three straight days.


We reminisced about happy times when my mother was still alive and dark times when pancreatic cancer came for her just three days before her 70th birthday. We spoke of my arrest in detail and my court appearance on my 40th birthday, a time I decided to block out in embarrassment, for nearly a decade.


I told my father how I spent the night alone on a steel-slab bed as officers checked on me every few minutes. My small beige cinder block cell was cold, even in July, and the scratchy wool blankets they offered were too itchy to use. The only item in the cell was a stainless-steel toilet that either didn’t flush, or I didn’t know how to flush. Twice I was on the toilet when guards peered in on me to make sure I hadn’t hurt myself —again.


In the morning, after my corn flakes were served to me through a slot in the plexiglass door, I was bailed out by my sister and returned home to face my boyfriend who had called the police on me for punching the brick garage when I learned of my mother’s death sentence diagnosis. I would punch again, he thought, and rightly so, so he called the police to help calm me down. When they couldn’t and my rage boiled over, I was arrested.


As the sun disappeared and a chill set in, we went inside, prepared dinner together, pulled out an old cookbook to help plan Sunday dinner and enjoyed the quiet of a neighborhood that was usually loud.

The next morning, I made corned beef hash with our leftovers and planned out the rest of the weekend which included a trip to the cemetery to visit Mom for him and outside playtime with Clancy for me.


Tonight, we play Monopoly.


And that is nothing like jail.



Christine Brooks is a graduate of Western New England University with her B.A. in Literature and her M.F.A. from Bay Path University in Creative Nonfiction. Her poem, 'the price', is in the October issue of The Cabinet of Heed and her poems, 'life' and 'I Don’t Believe', are in the fall issue of Door Is a Jar. Two poems, 'friends' and 'demons' are in the January 2020 issue of Cathexis Northwest Press and her poem, 'communion', is in the January 2020 issue of Pub House Books. Her series of vignettes, 'Small Packages', was named a semifinalist at Gazing Grain Press in August 2018. Her essay, 'What I Learned from Being Accidentally Celibate for Five Years' was featured in HuffPost, MSN, Yahoo and Daily Mail UK in April 2019. Her book of poems, 'The Cigar Box Poems', was released in February 2020.

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