Here we are, back in the house I grew up in. I’m even in the last bedroom I had (we tended to play musical chairs with bedrooms as we got older and needed or wanted different things from our living spaces). Currently, when it’s not sheltering guests from the east coast, it is a yoga/meditation room for the two (currently furloughed) massage therapists, one professional dancer, and my awesome mama who live in the house.
Carlos and I are camped out in here, quite cozily. Our bed is a snuggly heap of foam mats on the floor, which is not too different from our futon back home. Mama lent us her desk, and I bought a small, very portable folding desk from OfficeMax. Carlos and I have lined them up side by side right under the window. When Carlos is doing serious writing, he goes out to the front room and sits in the small easy chair by the fireplace, but I like my bench, which reminds me of my writing bench at home.
Right now, he’s sitting at his desk, with Roll20 and Zoom (audio only) open at the same time. Our friends Fran, Tom, DongWon, and Josh are playtesting our tabletop RPG-in-development “Negocios Infernales,” which Carlos has managed to input into Roll20. It’s his third virtual playtest, but the first one I’m here sitting in on. The fact that Carlos got this far in virtual game-building is, to me, terribly impressive. I’d’ve given up crying long ago.
It’s funny, the things each of can do more or less tirelessly that the other finds tedious or all but impossible.
Take game design for example. Carlos spent hours making this virtual play possible. Me, I took a nap. However, for the other game he’s developing–which is a card game called “Favors”–making prototypes requires a lot of cutting and stuffing into sleeves. I CAN DO THAT FOR HOURS. Just give me an audiobook and I’m happy occupied. Carlos hates doing things like that. I tell him it’s because I did office work for so many years. I’m like the resident envelope stuffer.
We both love being helpful to my mama, however. We have that in common. So today, we went out into the alley out back and attacked the chest-high alley plants growing out there. (“What is a weed? A plant whose virtues have not yet been discovered.” — Emerson.)
Here is another situation in which we are different:
Carlos in general dislikes gardening, but he loves the weedwhacker. He says it makes him feel like a god mowing down armies. It’s fast, it’s loud, it’s mechanized; it is the perfect tool for a job like this. But I? I like CHOPPING THINGS DOWN. And also LOPPING THINGS OFF.
So while he mowed down his grass armies, I went through a pile of tools until I found the LIMB LOPPER. Because there was a huge patch of greenery with stalks as thick as branches. And they needed lopping.
AND I AM YOUR GIRL FOR LOPPING AND CHOPPING. I may have mentioned.
All of which to say, we spent a good hour outside doing yard work. Which we never get to do in Queens (to Carlos’s great joy and contentment; he’d rather be writing) (so would I generally) (but after three years, I was super ready for some yard work).
I say this because this was after I went on a little neighborhood bike ride with my mama. And Carlos and my mama and I spent ten or fifteen minutes in the backyard shadowboxing, wielding bamboo sticks like tennis rackets and fencing foils and the batons from A Chorus Line’s “One.” That’s a lot of fun, physical movement for me. I revel in it. I glory in it. I don’t get this in apartment living.
I’m not sure if I’m losing weight, and I’m not sure I want to know. But I do know that I feel more deeply inside my body. My hands were trembling after all that lopping–I had to hold onto my drink with both hands!–and that tells me I was using and strengthening muscles that probably need it. My thighs are happy from three bike rides this week. Sore, yes, but happy. Also, I squatted down to get something the other day–and then I squatted again to fix it–and sprang back up, and realized my knees hadn’t creaked. I didn’t groan or huff. My legs didn’t complain. And it… it’d been a while.
Right now, Governor Cuomo has extended NY on Pause till May 15th. We’re therefore going to be extending our stay here yet again, for at least another fortnight past our already-extended return date. I’m in a city where most of my mother’s side of the family, and some of my father’s side, lives–and I can’t see them–except a few brothers who drop by and hang around outside in the yard to chat with us for a few minutes once every few weeks. Grocery shopping is stressful (we keep it at a minimum) and my ability to make money through narration is basically null, but…
But, in general, I’m happy. We’re safe. We’re comfortable. We’re among loving family. We take turns making family dinners, or sometimes just scrounging for ourselves. We watch things with my mama–Carlos and I watched the first two episodes of Los Espookys with her, and mama and I watched the new Emma, and alongside Caitlyn Paxson on Skype from Toronto. We kept waggling eyebrows at each other and making inappropriate comments in the chat. We play games at the table from time to time. We plant wildflowers.
And I get to go bike riding, which I’m afraid to do in New York. It’s a solitary activity–even if you’re biking with others–that harms none. I’m very grateful for that. I’m grateful to be here.
I’m worried about everybody. I have friends whose family and friends are dying. I miss being home. Plans for the rest of the summer and year are rippling and shedding. We must remain complex. We must remain flexible. We must remain ready to help.
And I must remember what Carlos says constantly: “Joy is local.” The world is monstrous, but joy is local. Both at once. And infinite else. We must remain complex.
I don’t seem to be any less busy. Not really spending a lot of time binging shows or books. Much is coming due. The trouble is juggling a schedule that seems to amorphous, or assigning priorities. Lists help. Waking up early helps–5:30-6:30. I don’t seem able to wake myself up with any number of alarms, but I’ll get up if Carlos wakes me. Even if the day gets slippery, at least I feel like there was enough of it, if I get up early.
I’m really enjoying writing the second draft of Fiddle, my new novel. It makes me laugh. It’s ridiculous and romantic and bizarre, and it suits my mood.
But I’m taking a break from Fiddle next week to finish copyedits on my ARC of The Sinister Quartet, which is coming out in June. My short novel–about 60,000 words–The Twice-Drowned Saint, will be found therein. In the upcoming weeks, I’ll be creating recipes based on all four stories in the book, playlists for my novel, and videos of me reading excerpts.
This is in addition to game designing with Carlos (for his sabbatical, and also because we really want to get Negocios Infernales up and running), and helping him create videos/content for his upcoming book (vigorously virtual) book launch of Sal and Gabi Fix the Universe. He’s been hard (and happily) at work giving virtual presentations for schools and libraries, and that content is just going to accelerate and keeping on coming. I’m very excited for him.
And that’s the state of the Hernandooney Household In Exile.
Oh, and if you’ve read this far–his book launch is on May 5th. He and Rick Riordan will be live on Instagram at 8 PM Eastern, challenging each other to a MYTH WAR in which the loser cuts off all his hair. Carlos made this graphic for it: