Memories of a Future
One Woman's tales from the pandemic year - remembered seven years later as life continues on. (Short Story For Fiction Writing Course, GWU, 2020)
“Wait! I forgot to pack the containers from the bathroom,” Hannah shouted from the hallway. This move was becoming too overwhelming for her, as with any other sense of change in her life.
“I grabbed them already,” Dan yelled. “We gotta get going, the landlord wants us out of here by noon.”
The small apartment that the couple had been leasing for the last three years felt strangely empty, save for a few pieces of furniture that were too large to fit into the moving van.
“SHIT! I think a box broke in the kitchen,” Hannah cried to an empty room. Dan was already preparing the car for their long drive ahead. She bent down to collect the fallen books and folders scattered around the tiled floor.
Hannah noticed one in particular: a lightly faded, gray Moleskin notebook that looked as though it had been gathering dust for some time now. Flipping through pages filled with cluttered handwriting and doodles of what were once her daydreams, she recognized what she had found after almost eight years in storage. It was her journal from college, filled with memories that she had forgotten soon after graduating, and rather dramatic commentary of a mad world that had only grown madder.
Forgetting for a moment about her and Dan’s urgency to move out, Hannah opened the notebook to a random page: March 12, 2020.
3/12/2020 - I’m pissed spring break is about to start soon and I’m supposed to be going to the lakehouse with Aaron and his friends but now that might not happen. We got an email from the school today and my parents called telling me to pack my dorm room up and be prepared to leave in the next two days. I don’t know what’s happening, I keep hearing the word outbreak and disease. The professors are getting really worried, they’ve all cancelled classes for the next three weeks which I’m definitely fine with, the work is starting to pile up… but I don’t know what’s going on. I asked my dad if I can still go to the lakehouse next week and he told me he doesn’t even know what next week will look like, so that kind of freaked me out.
“We gotta go!!” Dan already had the key in the door, ready to lock it and leave the apartment forever. “The landlord said he can ship us anything we couldn’t fit in the truck, come on.”
“Dan, you need to see what I found. It’s about the Pandemic… Coroner or Covin or something like that, from a few years ago, I was still in college at the time, I found my journal from that year… listen to this -”
“Hannah I don’t want to be driving too late at night, read it to me in the car.”
She read the next entry aloud, each word striking harder than the last.
"3/14/2020 - So I’m back at home which sucks because I don’t know how long I’ll be here for. I brought everything back with me from school except for my bedding. I couldn’t fit that in any of the bags I had to take home with me, and I don’t know when the school will be shipping it. I was supposed to be travelling to the lake house next week but all trains have been suspended for ‘an indefinite amount of time’, which seems fucking stupid."
“So I guess you’ve always struggled with wanting to know the future, Huh?” Dan joked, shifting his gaze slightly over to Hannah in the passenger seat as to gauge her level of seriousness.
Hannah didn’t want Dan to worry about the entries, their relationship has often been bound to his need to care for her when she was feeling anxious or going through a bout of depression. But they were married now; this had to be an equal partnership for this to work – especially now that they were moving into a house together.
“I forgot… you were in school during the pandemic, right? What was that like… having to leave and everything?” Dan asked, this time making it known that he was curious about Hannah’s past. He was already living in New York City in 2020, working remotely for the firm he’s still employed at.
“Honestly, I forgot about all these things I wrote about, the worries seem so far away now,” Hannah gripped the notebook tightly with her hands. She fidgeted for a moment in her seat, but Dan’s hand on her thigh made her breathing slow.
“It is far away. Now we can focus on moving forward. The pandemic is over. And this point in our lives, the apartment, living in the city, it’s all over now,” Dan assured her. “We had good times there, though. Remember your 24th birthday?”
“Oh my god, and Raf got so drunk he serenaded us all with his awful singing and terrible dance moves!” Hannah started to feel like herself again. “Or when your parents first came to visit and we barely had any furniture yet. I swear they thought we were living in squalor.”
Hannah and Dan had left an apartment filled with memories and moments of growth, as well as countless arguments that they swore would be the end of their relationship. But they were moving to their new home, she was going back to the city that she lived in during college and the pandemic. Only this time she would be with her husband, in a small colonial just outside D.C.
As they drove, Dan played his usual indie music, the kind that made Hannah feel as though she was truly living. He sat in silence, while Hannah skimmed through the next few journal entries.
4/23/2020 - Trump apparently suspended all flights from Europe and I’m afraid of what will happen next. The Coronavirus is now being called a pandemic, which is making me think of the movies I used to watch like Contagion or Train to Busan and I can’t help but think that’s what our world will look like in six months tops. Or maybe there will be a war, Trump has been fighting with China alot lately and other countries seem to have nuclear weapons. What if we don’t live past 2020, I keep thinking about that. How long will this pandemic last? Will I get back to school? What if I can’t graduate with my friends? I can’t do this. I want to drop out. No my therapist says not to overthink like this I guess I just have to wait to see what happens next.
5/3/2020 - I feel trapped, there is nowhere to go and nothing to do. Sara and Nicole stayed with their college friends and rented apartments far away from here, so I’m at home alone. My parents keep telling me to find a job or take a summer class, something to ‘keep me busy during these crazy times.’ Fucking crazy times… I feel like I’m going insane. Taking classes during quarantine was so fucking difficult. How am I supposed to focus on learning when I exist in a 8 by 5 centimeter zoom box?? I can’t sleep in the same place I work, and I can’t work without having friends and fun on the side.
6/4/2020 - I miss school so much, I miss my friends. I can’t live with my family anymore. I feel like the world is closing in on me and everything is going wrong. There’s nothing to do except watch TV and go on my phone and go online. I’ve been factiming my friends but it's hard when everyone is at home with their families and working and stuff. The distance is too much. I feel so lonely and so anxious and I don’t know when this pandemic will ever end.
Hannah fidgeted again in her seat, twirling her long hair and playing with the buttons of her coat. Just as she was starting to feel herself slipping into her past towards the memories she wanted to forget, she remembered what Dan always tells her: just keep moving forward, there will always be the next thing to worry about.
Hannah and Dan sat in silence for a few miles. From the right side window, Hannah watched the passing corn fields and farmhouses.
“I missed these roads.” Dan had grown up in a small, rural area near where they were driving through.
“I was thinking of stopping by and seeing my mom, but I’d rather not be driving all day. We can come back up here her after we move in.”
“Look at the cows, Dan! There’s so many.”
Hannah ccounted the cows as they passed by one corraled fiield after the next. She held her breath over bridges and took selfies to pass the time. They had never done this drive together before, and the newness was exhilarating, as were the constant scenes of nature.
“If I take this highway all the way down, we can get some really great views of the mountains from the car. We can also change roads in about half an hour, that will get us to D.C. much quicker. There’s a backroad we can take to avoid traffic, but the roads are a bit bumpier,” Dan’s vision was set on the road ahead.
“Which should we take?”
“I’m good with whatever you pick, I’m going to continue reading my journal,” Hannah said, half-listening, her attention rather spent on the notebook in her lap.
9/20/2020 - Virtual learning sucks and I keep feeling like I have too much time to do work and still no time at all. I started online classes last week which are hell. I got stuck in a lease for an apartment in the city, since I signed it before they cancelled in person classes. The good thing is many of my friends have also returned to D.C. in the same circumstances, but we all have nothing to do here. The clubs and bars are shut down, and the restaurants that had outdoor seating are quickly shutting down as well since it’s been getting colder. I’m finding myself in bed more often, watching TV or playing on my phone. It’s getting hard to hang out with people, everybody is getting too busy. D.C. has had a lot of protests lately, for Black Lives Matter and the death of RBG, but it just seems unsafe in a pandemic.
The virus itself is starting to infect people again, I think it’s being called a ‘second wave’ or something. Everyone is arguing with each other, people and politicians and countries, it’s like the world is converging on itself. I wonder what I’ll be doing after I graduate, because I can’t seem to think of anything. The job market is down right now and I’ll be applying to positions along with thousands of other graduates proabbly worrying about these same thigngs. I can’t stop myself from overthinking all the possibilities, but in ways that everything goes wrong. I think I’m losing hope.
“Are you ok? You’ve been quiet since you found that journal,” Dan asked. Hannah knew he was trying to be helpful, but she also knew he wouldn’t understand.
“It’s just weird, I remember feeling so hopeless and lost, I couldn’t think of a future for myself but here I am making my future,” Hannah said, tighlty clutching the seat belt around her body.
“We’re making our future, Hannah. It’s why you couldn’t see it then, you just hadn’t met meyet!” Dan leaned over in his seat and planted a single kiss on Hannah’s forehead.
Hannah smiled like a small child, embraced by Dan’s unconditional love. She turned her body, and threw the moleskin notebook onto one of the boxes in the back seat.
“Look! I See the monuments! We’re getting close!,” She recognized the views of the city from the highway, having driven these roads countless times during her college years. “We’re almost there!”