You Must Wash Your Hands Until They Bleed

Jennifer Patino
Dec 14, 2020 · 3 min read
Jack Sharp via Unsplash

I.

There’s a monster keeping us apart.

invisible threat, it’s become
a bad habit to fear you.
i never believed i could
keep you out, but oh,
how i hoped. see, i know
i’m not that powerful.

you’re showing me
some things. you’re showing me
evil.

II.

When your husband receives a positive result
you should:

immediately separate. wear masks even though
your vigilance about them didn’t protect you.
get used to sleeping on the floor. your back
will scream at you. your hips will feel shattered.
ignore this.

will your already chronically diseased
body to work for you for once. force it.
cry when you need to because holding
that back only hurts more. allow anger
to happen but don’t let it overtake you.

you should (you must) wash your hands
until they bleed.

reach out for support from others
outside your home when you need to.
video chat him from the next room.
(remember when we were dating
long distance & this is how it was?)

take trash out every day. keep that 6 ft. of
distance when you deliver what he needs.
check in. don’t panic if he’s been sleeping
for a long time. wear a mask & make sure
he’s breathing, if only to ease that panic
you tried so hard to keep at bay.

wash his dishes immediately. wash them
twice. disinfect them. disinfect everything.
disinfect your willpower. get used to the
smell of Lysol.

hope for the best. pray. pray. pray.
trust. trust something even if that
trust, that faith, feels diminished.
avoid news. if social media upsets you,
log out. delete the app. turn notifications
off for everyone except him.

keep track of the days. take each one
as it comes. treat symptoms
as they come. have a plan but don’t freak out
if the plan falls through. if you can’t do something,
wait for the moment when you can.
smile for him.

you must wash your hands until they bleed.

III.

I will never break these habits:

i’ll hate walls forever. i’ll be angry at everyone
not taking a pandemic seriously forever.
i’ll seriously contemplate going off the grid
(again). i’ll wish i were in Antarctica. i’ll
associate Christmas time with another bad thing,
but i won’t let it kill my love of it.
i’ll curse capitalism. i’ll want to throw up
at the phrase “profit over people.”

i’ll dream of our hands touching.
i’ll dream of him being better.
i will feel his suffering like a sword
through my own heart. i’ll think of
every habit. every goodnight kiss.
every moment we laugh because
i’ll want to remember. it’s a habit.
i’ll never break it.

i will enjoy all the cheesy movies
we watch together on
separate screens. in separate spaces.
for once, i will be glad for technology.
i will thank God for it.

i will pray. i will wash my hands until
they bleed.
i will hope to remain
healthy. i will call it a miracle every
day I have no symptoms. i will
rejoice when a fever breaks. i will believe
in the “when this is over.”

i will. i will.
i must. i must.
i am. i am.

Previously Published on ThistleThoughts.

Where Writers Break Out of the Box.