I walk the halls in our building, getting exercise in this time of pandemic. When I know I’ll be going up and down the stairs (I so miss the Y’s gym equipment), I don blue medical gloves. I nod to neighbors in passing, trying to keep 6 feet away while doing so. When we do speak it’s at opposite ends of the hall.
One of my neighbors opened her door a crack to leave, and upon hearing me and Zoe coming down the hall, quickly and rather loudly, slammed it shut. About 30 seconds after we walked past, we heard the door open and close and then the fumble of keys, and finally, quickly paced steps in the opposite direction. Social niceties and rules of engagement are different now.
The first time I walked the squared-U shape of our halls was after my stem cell transplant in 2016. I was quarantined away from almost everything, and didn’t have the strength or stamina to go out anyway. So I walked the halls, bald, with a gray pallor to my skin, pushing my first rollator (I’m currently on my third). Z rode her pink bike with the training wheels. We were a team.
The second time I found myself confined to the halls was last spring. I got shingles the week after Easter, and spent the next month inside, looking like I had a major case of the bubonic plague, followed by blistering postherpetic neuralgia. Even when the pain eased (thanks Gabapentin!), I couldn’t workout. Anytime my heart rate increased, the shingle scars would send waves of hot, searing pain into my head, scalp, and neck. So, I walked the halls. Z was by my side once more, then riding a Hello Kitty scooter given to her by Grandma Kathy.
Even after I recovered and went back to working out, I kept walking the halls. I became familiar with nearly everyone on our floor, and a number of those above and below us. I smelled bacon and eggs many mornings, and curry or chicken and rice in the evenings. Mr. Henry blasts NBA (and MLB games) too loud, while the handsome young 20-somethings down the hall tended to play reggaeton before going out to the club on Friday and Saturday evenings. Jeromey-rome (yeah, I use to watch Martin) YELLS at almost every NFL game and loves late 80s/early 90s rap and R&B. The college co-eds in the corner apartment almost always have on hoodies, air pods, and are holding massive cups of Dunkin’.
I liked knowing something about the people who live mere steps away but at times seem more like blurs than individuals. And now? Carlos is still friendly, his eyes smiling since his mouth is obstructed by a white mask. Vivian, the lovely beauty queen with the rich, espresso skin, is ever-sweet, her arms usually full of groceries for her and her immunosuppressed mom. Joe always makes sure to ask if we need anything as he rushes to log back in as he’s strictly working from home now. I haven’t seen his identical twin come to visit him for weeks. I love hearing the Jehovah’s Witnesses sing en español on Sunday afternoons. Through their door with the sunflowery “Welcome” hung on a nail, of course.
I’ll keep walking the halls. I need to exercise more than ever. I’ve been solo more, though. No more bike or scooter rides in the hall (as per the super, unrelated to the outbreak), and walking is not nearly so much fun if you’re 8. She’ll join me, I suppose, when the weather behaves and we go for a walk around the parked-car-filled block.
And me? I’ll walk with my rollator, keep a six foot berth, and copy the co-eds with airpods in, trying to drown out the aloneness.