Unfortunate Nights





Dear Diary,


Nothing much today. I am sixty-eight; there’s a pandemic raging. As you remember, I have crappy lungs, so I vacillate between concern and terror, and right now I’m in a charming rental in The Springs. All I know is that Jackson Pollock once lived around here, but he isn’t here now. I am. And I had chicken livers for dinner.


If you don’t leave the house at all, your relationship with reality becomes a tad uneasy. I read about a place that sold fresh eggs. My little car cleverly dictated directions, and we arrived. A woman without a mask sold me eggs through a window slot. I stood far away and asked if they had chicken livers.


Hence dinner. I have never seen such fresh chicken livers, smooth and solid like they’d just been ripped out of the chicken. More anon.


Earlier today I heard a peculiar sound while I was reading, and I looked up to see a tall cactus collapsing in the corner. Just like that. It was like seeing a tree fall in the forest. Or democracy combusting on a January day. I watered the cactus. We will see what tomorrow brings.


The cactus has not improved, though there is a dab of green at the very top. I have considered notifying the owners. I will not tell them I destroyed the teakettle and melted the yoga roller. These things are fungible.


Today, Headspace offered a four-step stretch that did not require getting out of bed. It did require breathing. I listened to books. Imagining is another kind of exercise. I walked to the mailbox. It was cold. Someone from my past tracked me down. Maybe I am who I was, maybe not. He looked like a lynx. It was virtual, so I am still here.


Here is where I am so far so good. If I forget thee, O Jerusalem, it will be because I have confused the days of the week. My left hand has started to shake; I assume it is psychosomatic, but my right hand does not agree. I practiced squeezing a sponge to encourage it. This is what is known as self-help.


It was one of those unfortunate nights. I chose bedroom number two as the road less taken. It is conventional wisdom that if you wear socks, you will fall asleep seven minutes earlier, but no one says from when. I had my socks and my weighted blanket and my black cat eye mask, but my brain kept playing reruns of the apocalypse. It devolved from there.


Three inches of snow today; what a puny disaster. COVID is laughing its head off. I decided to clear a path to my little car. There was no shovel. I took a broom and a cleaver. There was a skim of ice lying in wait on the deck, but I was too clever for that. When I got to the car, a humongous chunk of ice fell on the hood. It was as big as a suckling pig. Above me, the motherfucking trees were jeering.


This afternoon, I shook popcorn in an enamel pot like a culinary pioneer. It was unfortunate that the dish towel caught on fire; it had blue stripes, but it was not otherwise distinguished. I noticed two surfboards stored up on the rafters. They looked a lot like manatees; I said hello. They seemed stable enough.


I brought my own ketchup, but there was already ketchup. I don’t want to use their ketchup. I don’t want them to think I am that kind of person.


The heat is not working. I push all possible buttons repeatedly, but no dice. I google Honeywell and attempt to follow directions. If I had a dog, I could slit it open and crawl inside, but it would have to be big.


If this were the ark, would I care that my companion had a lethal virus? If this were the ark, there would be water and the promise of Ararat; there would be mice and tigers and giraffes, always giraffes. The wind would not lick the house; the windows would not rattle; the door would not stare at me.


I notice the squirrels. I don’t trust them. I wonder if they will come in through the holes I cannot see. I color my hair standing on sheets of paper overlapped to fend off disaster. I am terrified the sink will stain. I do a three-minute meditation. My mind babbles on. There is plenty of bleach. I try to stay in the moment, but there are so many of them.


Last night, I had a lovely conversation with my mother; I have discovered that she’s outside the left skylight. I told her I love her and miss her; she was very quiet but accepting.


Although I spend time in the sleeping bed, I am afraid to sleep; it may be that I will stop breathing as no one is in charge here. My brain is a napping octopus, drifting and changing colors. I try to trust it.


Tonight, I steeled myself and pulled down the shades. If someone came and looked in through the window, I would die of fright. It is an established fact that helicopter noise can kill a goat, but that is not the relevant comparison. I am living in a landscape of fear like a grasshopper dreaming of spiders.


It is pleasant to pace. It’s like taking a walk without going outside. When I pace in an oval, it is a track-and-field event. Sometimes I worry about the septic system. Sometimes I remember why I came here. Those other people, all of them potentially lethal.


I think of putting notches in the doorjamb. There is a heated towel rack; it’s on a timer whose time I do not know. The warm towels are like a miracle, but I never use them; I brought my own.


Have I locked the door? Do I have the keys? Did I leave the stove on; will the place burn down or blow up—is that what happens with gas stoves? I ask my phone. I feel such gratitude to my phone, my very own Delphic oracle.


I think of smashing in a window. I choose the window. My heart is speeding up. I wonder if I am having a ministroke. I can’t pull it back; my heart is off the leash. Alright, I have begun to hallucinate, and it is not all hearts and flowers, oh no, not at all.


Please make it stop.


At least let me know you’re there.


Make the lights blink.


The white food is gone. The heat is up to eighty. The sleep has been sucked out of the house. I am going down the drain. The patterns behind my eyes are moving way too quickly.


Pestilence, darkness, toads.


Have mercy upon your unworthy servant. Let me fear no evil for thou art with me.


Art thou with me?


I have reached my limit.


Please let me sleep.


Let me know when it’s over.





Susan Eve Haar’s work has been primarily in theater. She is a member of The Actors Studio, Ensemble Studio Theatre, and HB Playwright’s Unit, as well as the Writer’s Guild East. Recently she received a Sloan Foundation commission for a new play. Her fiction has been published in Columbia Journal, CRAFT, Forge, Glint Literary Magazine, Good Works Review, Saint Ann’s Review, Stonecoast Review, and Yemassee Journal. When not writing, she enjoys gardening.