You’ve been searchin’ from here to Singapore
Ain’t it time that you notice the girl next door, baby
Why not me?
Oh, you had to see if the world was round
It’s time that you learned how good settlin’ down could be
Why not me?
Why Not Me?
— The Judds
The black SUV turned off of route 76 into the driveway, kicking up a cloud of dust into the morning air. Voices on the radio babbled.
“I can touch my face, I’m already sick. It’s amazing what they’re doing for us. Can you imagine not being able to say goodbye to a loved one? Oof! Think about it, and then think about what you can do to help make something like that less likely to happen.”
“Jesus,” he said, steering toward the boarded-up house at the end of the drive. “Change it.”
The front seat passenger let out a sigh, looked at him, and changed the station.
“The Congressman said he was not running for reelection to spend more time with family, but most people think he dropped out because President Trump endorsed his opponent…”
“Change it,” they both said in unison.
New voices argued on the radio.
“Aren’t you concerned about people going to in-person voting?” asked one.
“I don’t know. Why didn’t he do it before? He’s doing it right before the election,” came the answer from a familiar voice from the White House.
“But, do you think every …” pressed the other.
“Excuse me. Why didn’t he do this two weeks ago? All of a sudden, excuse me. All of a sudden, an election which is taking place very soon, gets delayed now. I just endorsed him today and….”
The voice stopped as he parked and turned off the car.
“We’re here,” he said.
“That’s where we’re supposed to stay?” their grandson asked from the back seat.
“That’s it, sweetie,” said his wife from front seat. “We’ll fix it up! It’ll be fun.”
“Fun?” asked his daughter from the back seat. “Fun wasn’t the word I was thinking of,” she said.
“Hey, everyone knew ahead of time this was going to be a mixed bag, okay?” he said looking in the rear-view mirror at his daughter. Then he looked to his passenger on the right, they made eye contact, he squeezed her hand. She smiled a bit.
“Let’s go check it out, Grandpa,” she said, opening the door.
The young boy ran toward the boarded-up adobe building, chased by his mother who jumped out of the back seat.
“Let’s be careful: snakes!” she said.
“Snakes?” the boy asked. “That would be cool!”
They stood watching their daughter and grandchild. He put his arm around her.
“This is not what I was thinking,” he said about the house.
“What were you expecting?”
“Something, you know, white, and bigger.”
“Brown and small is better.”
“I suppose now would be the time for us to find the Cumean Sybil. Like Aeneas said,
Prophetess who can tell what the future knows,
You know that I ask for nothing more than what Is mine by what the Fates allow to me.
Grant that at last we Teucrians can bring
He paused and gave her a sideways look.
“Bring our tempest tossed selves to Chimayo.”
“Nice,” she said, putting her arm around his waist as they looked at the old house. “But you need Beatrice, not the Sybil.
Tuttavia, perché mo vergogna porte del tuo errore, e perché altra volta, udendo le serene, sie più forte, pon giù il seme del piangere e ascolta: sì udirai come in contraria parte mover dovieti mia carne sepolta.”
“Fuck,” he said. “You lost me. Purgatorio? Canto thirty? You know I barely figured out Latin.”
“Why do you suck at learning languages?”
“It’s a vulnerability thing,” he said. “English is all I’ve got.”
“It’s Canto thirty-one, the confession.”
Nonetheless, so that you now may bear the shame of your straying and the next time that you hear the Sirens’ call, be stronger, stop sowing tears and listen. Then you shall hear just how my buried flesh should have directed you to quite a different place.”
“Ok, got it. I’m in purgatory with you. Quarantine is purgatory. I was hoping for a something a little more like the Decameron.”
“Of course, you would,” she said.
“Are we pilgrims? Maybe we’re pilgrims, like the ones that walk right down that road.”
“Were you ever here for Good Friday?”
“I was. They’d come along, alone, or in little groups. When they’d pass, the dogs would go crazy, barking at them. I could look out the windows and see them, carrying crosses.”
“It’s four miles to the Santuario from here.”
“By the time they got here they’d come a long way.”
“So have we.”
“Well, my place is here with you and these rug rats I guess,” he said. “Lots of memories.”
“For sure,” she said. “How did we not know? After that summer I couldn’t forget this place.”
“Kids are self-absorbed,” he said. “I never would have wanted to come back here when we first met. This is not where I saw us ending up, back here. It was the last place on earth….” he stopped.
“Maybe if there was a zombie apocalypse,” she said. “Maybe when the world was ending. Or a pandemic quarantine.”
“Yeah, there’s many things I never thought would happen,” he said watching the young boy trying to peek inside the house.
He turned to her.
“I’m sorry. It’s hard for me to say I’m sorry.”
“Wait,” she said. “Just wait for a second.”
“After all that we’ve been through,” he started.
“Stop,” she said.
“We should have all been together a long time ago. We should have done this a long time ago.”
“You’re ridiculous,” she said. “Fucking ridiculous. Getting all sentimental about this. You didn’t want to ‘be together,’” saying the last two words in a gently mocking tone.
“Jesus,” he sighed, shaking his head and looking down.
“I always wanted someone, you, to say that to me,” she said.
Then they stopped talking.
“This is gonna be the longest fucking month of my life dealing with you.”
“Month?” she laughed. “This whole pandemic thing is going to last a lot longer than a month.”
She remembered the first time she heard cicadas. She closed her eyes and breathed in. She took his hand, and looked up at him.
“Is that a tear?” she whispered, their faces closer together.
“Fuck you,” he whispered back. They embraced and kissed.
“Hey you guys,” their daughter said a voice that broke the moment. “You think you could peel yourselves off each other for a minute? We need to figure out how to get in here. The kid needs to eat.”
They looked over at her, and it was sinking in. They had work to do.