Covid Birthday

We couldn’t have known, has become the refrain, We couldn’t have known in February, last year, five years ago when we took a birthday photo of me in a brick-walled cafe, Sunday Times open. We live now in a world we couldn’t have known was waiting for us. Last night my friends wore masks as they rushed across the backyard in the rain to the deck, where we’d set up a distanced spot for them to sit, carrot cupcakes still in their bakery box, Clorox wipes and hand sanitizer set neatly to the side. Of the masks they gifted me, tied with a ribbon, they said it was a joke. There was still a bottle of Napa red, flowers wrapped in tissue paper, a candle, a song. But we know I am not just entering a new year, but continuing the long one we are all trapped in–distance, fabric, time apart. Microfiber masks soaking in a sink. And the question of how we will use this sudden expanse of time consistently and wisely.