Author: Frankie NC Torres

A sitcom character trapped in the real world. Erstwhile Nabokovian nymphet. Self-proclaimed "renaissance girl." Naturally theatrical. Loves wordplay and witty comebacks, though lacks the ability to know when to use them to best effect. Has what seems to be a Wikipedia of weird and/or interesting facts stored in her head. Loves music, literature, and theatre. Writes, usually poetry, and usually about boys she's fallen in love with. Talks about herself in the third person sometimes. Her whole life is broadcasted on her Facebook timeline. Was misdiagnosed as having ADHD. Occasionally dresses up as a panda. (See what I mean by sitcom character?)

Books I read during quarantine (so far)

I used to be quite a voracious reader. Before I developed a true taste for clothes (or, more like, before I discovered Stradivarius and Uniqlo), I spent most of mine and my mom’s money at Powerbooks and Fully Booked. There is a book shelf or a TBR pile in every room of our house (including the housekeeper’s room; she reads a lot too), and boxes of books to destash that I haven’t yet gotten around to selling or donating.

I used to demolish a book in one sitting. Now, unless a book is incredibly compelling, it takes me weeks. My ability to sit down and read long-form has dwindled, as I’ve switched to consuming podcasts and Youtube mini-documentaries instead.

Quarantine is no blessing. To call it one would be an insult to the frontliners who must continue to risk their lives with little to no support from the legal authorities. What it has been, though, is a re-learning experience; thanks to Booktube, my iPad resurrecting from the dead, eBook libraries, and Google Play Books, I’ve managed to read more in the past few months than I have in the last two years.

Without further ado, a list (in no particular order):

Finished

  • The Chiffon Trenches – André Leon Talley
  • If I Had Your Face – Frances Cha
  • Too Much and Never Enough – Mary L. Trump
  • Slade House – David Mitchell (reread)
  • A Discovery of Witches – Deborah Harkness
  • Shadow of Night – Deborah Harkness
  • The Book of Life – Deborah Harkness
  • Girl, Wash Your Face – Rachel Hollis (read to critique)
  • Morpho Eugenia – A.S. Byatt
  • The Resurrectionist – Tess Gerritsen (E.B. Hudspeth)

In Progress

  • Compacts and Cosmetics – Madeleine Marsh
  • Circe – Madeleine Miller
  • The Splendid and the Vile – Erik Larson
  • Sleep, Pale Sister – Joanne Harris
  • The Lake of Dead Languages – Carol Goodman (reread)
  • Your Beauty Mark – Dita Von Teese and Rose Apodaca
  • Fashion in the Time of Jane Austen – Sarah Jane Downing
  • Rodham – Curtis Sittenfield

Abandoned

  • The Demonologist – Gerald Brittle
  • The Quick – Lauren Owen

(extras) What we cut out of my last PV article.

I’ve been re-reading a book called Station Eleven, by Emily St. John Mandel. It’s the story of, among other things, a group of artists called “The Traveling Symphony” struggling to carve out a life for themselves after a pandemic wipes out the world as we know it. 


It would be incredibly out of touch not to acknowledge that, compared to many others, I am in a position of privilege. I still have a job, and it’s one that allows me to work from home. As I’m not an out-of-delivery zone, I can order food online. I live with my family so I’m not worrying about rent. I am one of the lucky ones. My life is far from post-apocalyptic. My struggles, unlike those of The Traveling Symphony or even our actual countrymen out on the streets, are far from life-and-death.


In one sense, quarantine has been “easy.” But in another sense, life in isolation has been…well, rough is an understatement. Here I will once again acknowledge my special circumstances: I am mentally ill, and my condition comes with depressive and anxious episodes. But even if I wasn’t a “clinical case,” the COVID-19 situation has produced feels of fear of powerlessness–of being able to only watch through a screen as the world as we know falls apart—that have been incredibly difficult to push past. 


Even the thought of quarantine lifting is little relief: there is so much still uncertain about “life after,” and what few predictions people have dared to make have not exactly been good.


The plot of Station Eleven is eerily on the nose right now. Maybe that’s why, as I sit at home, fighting down my panic and trying to function “normally,” I find myself gravitating towards it. In particular, I reread chapter 11, which begins with, “What was lost in the collapse: almost everything, almost everyone…”

It’s just the rainy season.

Yesterday, I came home with my arms scratched up and my dress torn. We went to the vet’s, you see, and the kittens yowled all the way there and all the way home and Minji peed herself from fear and is now living in our guest bathroom, refusing to be touched.

I had a list of things I’d promised I’d get to, but instead, I took off my torn dress and dove into a pair of worn pajamas and cried myself to sleep. I’m so tired. I said. I’m so upset and I don’t know why.

This morning I woke up to three kittens surrounding me, like a summoning circle; the yowliest tucked under my chin as if to apologize. I got up. Minji still smelled of the pee she would not let us wash off, but I didn’t mind. When you love someone, you don’t mind the smell, or if they hiss and scream when you touch them, or when they claw the air out of fear. Minji has anxiety, just like me. Minji is still coming down from a breakdown I should have seen coming but didn’t. I fed her a tube of Churru and told her I was sorry, I didn’t see my breakdown coming either, and it’s okay if she smells of pee and doesn’t want to be touched right now.

Yesterday I messaged my boss telling her that things hadn’t gone well at the vet’s so I was strung out and wouldn’t work all weekend. She said, “Okay,” and I think she meant it, but my anxiety yowled the entire time that she didn’t, and that if I kept showing my weaknesses then my company would eventually get rid of me. One day you’ll wake up to your own replacement, my anxiety said. I started to cry. I cried so loud that I couldn’t hear my anxiety anymore, couldn’t hear Minji still growling from the guest bathroom, couldn’t hear anything other than the sound of wind roaring in my ears and my choked sobs as I fell into the black.

I slept through half of online church today, waking up only in time for the sermon. To make up for it, I took tons of notes, while the kittens curled up around me, purring in unison. They say cats purr on each other to relieve stress. Some cultures believe cats ward off against evil spirits. Perhaps this was a sort of exorcism, an inter-species soothing, a child trying to calm its mother.

I keep the cats in my room when I do anything now. They sleep in the closet beside my desk-slash-Murphy bed. They sleep in front of my electric guitar. They sleep most of the time, waking only to jump on my lap and inspect my screen before jumping down again. I wonder if they know it isn’t good for their Mama to be alone, but she doesn’t really want to be around humans right now? During video calls, the cutest of the kittens–Jinnie–curls up on my lap and snuggles close whenever someone’s stressed-out snap makes me wince.

I don’t take anything personally. Everyone is stressed. Everyone is burning out. Quarantine was hard, but somehow this limbo version, this GCQ, is harder, and everyone is feeling it. I don’t take anything personally, but I am also a trauma survivor with a broken response. Every snap, every shut down, every “That’s not the point.” or “Not right now.” or “Wait, someone else is talking.” makes my anxiety yowl louder, until she is a vicious cat in a guest bathroom, smelling of old piss and not wanting to be touched. Until she is too loud and broken to ignore, to muffle and hold down with the full weight of my reasonable adulthood.

I woke up at nearly 5PM today. I smelled of underarm sweat and my face felt crusty with drool and leftover mascara tears. I cleaned up. I sorted out my net connection. I did a “surprise” Facebook Live for work.

An officemate messaged that she was going crazy. I said, Me too. But no big deal.

It’s just the rainy season. I said.

It’s just the rainy season. It’ll pass.