Forty days, they told me—quaranta giorni—but I think it was more. Sixty? Seventy-five? No matter. It’s over now.
During my solitude, my bedroom quickly became a dark, fusty, unwelcoming place, so I slept on my balcony most nights, in spite of the cold, my down comforter and flannel pajamas wrapped tightly around me, the slender mattress from the spare bedroom just barely keeping away the cold and damp of the concrete. Those many evenings blended into one another. My cat would usually curl up beside me for a time, his oily, old-man cat fur flying around my face and making me itch.
The subtle sounds of the world, unpeopled though it was, always kept me from sleeping well, but there was something invigorating about that—about being engaged with the unseen world of nighttime. I heard a barn owl screeching over the meadows a few times. There seemed to always be the steady white noise of crickets—were they crickets?—whistling and strumming in the trees. And one night I heard a disturbing sound that I never could identify. It sounded as though the boulders had separated from the roadside and had begun to roll, ever so slowly, down hill. It could have been distant thunder. Or maybe I was dreaming. After all, everything felt like a dream.
A beautiful thing about sleeping poorly on my hard, thin mattress on the cold stone balcony was that it left me tired during the days, which were always quieter and stiller than the nights. The warmer golden air was suppressed by a daylight calm. My old cat and I could nap for hours. Wine helped too.
Now that I’m free from quarantine, I admit that I feel a bit uneasy and directionless. I feel the way I always imagined prisoners must when finally freed after decades, or the way I imagined a castaway would feel once brought back to civilization. I’m rather like a bat sprung from my cave in the bright sun of midday. The sun is blinding, but—yes, there we go—my eyes are surely adjusting.
I notice that the grass at the sides of the road is longer than when I last saw it. The frogs in the pond sound as if they’ve increased their numbers. The road is untrammeled. I plan on walking forward, under the bright open sky, as far as my feet will take me.