What’s Wrong With Aunt Astrid?

The poor dear.

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Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

Dearest Aunt Astrid,

I received your letter this morning and must admit to it arousing some concern. I write in the hopes that my words bring comfort and fortitude to you in this, your 95th day of isolation. It’s true, we never suspected our time of confinement to reach such lengths, and indeed we cannot forsee an end ahead. But I do hope you keep a good perspective and manage not to displace the marbles you referenced in your last correspondence. I am pleased that we’re still writing and must insist that it continue for the duration. If you could also clarify why your last letter smelled of red wine vinegar that would be best.

While I understand your concerns regarding cleanliness of the outgoing mailbox in your building’s main vestibule, I do worry that posting your letters with a pair of kitchen tongs that are then left outside your residence in a biohazard box stolen from your last podiatrist appointment might arouse suspicions from your neighbors that I think we can both agree you do not need. I’ve taken the liberty of sending you a box of sterile gloves, size small, and you should feel free to handle things with their assistance. Look for their arrival in eight-to-ten business days.

The weather here in Connecticut is most pleasant, as I’m sure you’re aware, not being more than two minor train rides south. I’ll suggest it, but I know you haven’t been making use of your roof as it’s too much communal surface area for you to bear the burden of sterilizing. It is a blessing to have our own outdoor space, I’ll admit to that. Mother and Father assume alternating shifts on the back porch to read, embroider, and fashion fishing hooks that will never see the likes of water. Unable, at this point, to occupy the same space at the same time, they’ve an unspoken agreement regarding the occupation of our exterior amenities in three-hour blocks of time. I sneak in a bit of meditative breathing on the landscaped stones, if I can, between shifts.

They communicate through the dog now, have I told you? One of them, and I’ve honestly no idea which, affixed a small barrel-like vessel to the front of Archibald’s collar, much like those worn by Saint Bernards on alpine rescue missions. Never mind that it weighs down the front of his modest Whippet body such that he can frequently be seen walking on this front two legs with the rear appendages fully mid-air and simply going along for the ride. They place scraps of paper in the collar unit to be couriered back and forth by an aging canine who simply wants to occupy his typical residence on a frayed pillow beneath a window in the den. I’m looking into a Retriever puppy as I can’t bear witness to this cruelty indefinitely. I am in awe of the Morse-like communications system you’ve established with your delivery man but when applied to my parents I’m afraid it would do nothing but create a situation where we’ve Swiss cheese for doors.

Mind you, we’ll have to take advantage of fair weather while we can, as the stifling, pizza oven-like temperatures of high and late summer will inevitably descend, forcing us to retreat to quarters until the days shorten and the electric bills return to a dollar amount that doesn’t turn the stomach. It is imperative, dear Aunt, that you take fresh air while it is still comfortable enough to do so. While I delight in the knowledge that you’re staying safe and distanced, it does strike me as a worrying that you’ve disposed of all your shoes. Perhaps investing in a simple loafer to slip on for brief walks would be wise? Let’s work our way up to that, at the very least. I’m finding the morning breezes to be particularly enjoyable and believe they’ll no doubt beckon to you from beneath the duvet you seem so committed to inhabiting for no fewer than 19 hours at a time. I suggest opening your windows from sunrise until 10am, at the very least, to let in the freshness of the morning and to remind yourself of a world beyond your buildings main egress.

While seven shrimp sautéed in olive oil and red pepper sounds delightful, I wonder if maybe it shouldn’t be your only source of sustenance. I do recommend a few leafy greens, legumes, and summer stone fruits to round out the diet. At the very least I know you’ll find the colors palatable. If memory serves, you keep a stash of raw almonds in your nightstand? You’d do well to dip into it on occasion. I’d worry for your hydration levels, though knowing your affinity for herbal tea as I do, I’m quite confident in your intake of liquids. Unless of course your kettle is no longer in good working order, a report I’ll need you to confirm in your next letter, and as quickly as possible.

Regarding apparel, I’m pleased to hear you’ve rotated garments into your routine to offer some variety from the robes, though I worry about casual passerby’s visual access to a woman wearing no more than underpinnings as she goes about her chores at three in the afternoon. Do make sure your curtains are drawn and that there are no errant drafts to cause you a chill. You should feel entirely free to continue the use of your homemade floral and feather headpieces, indeed I look forward to borrowing one from you for festive dress during the holiday season, should that be a safe possibility in two seasons’ time. Remember that you’re allergic to most formulations of glitter.

Three hours in the bath is too long. I didn’t want to be so blunt, but I cannot conceal my worry beneath softer words. In addition to the temperature of the water certainly ceasing suitability prior to the one-hour mark, I also worry about your skin’s prolonged exposure to liquid so thoroughly infused with epsom salts and the essence of french rose. I must insist that you limit bathing to no more than 45 minute increments, and if you could please not wear your Christmas pajamas in the tub, I’d feel a lot better about everything.

Stage-caliber makeup is an excellent hobby, and I’m so glad to hear you’ve found such a productive way to occupy your time. I’ll own up to some confusion as to why you’ve chosen to paint reproductions of Monet’s water lilies onto the right hemisphere of your face each morning, but I do appreciate your pursuit of a new skillset at this time. I trust you’re keeping your eyeshadow pigments clean and your brushes in a state of good repair.

You mustn’t dine on the rugs, I have to be fairly insistent here. If memory serves, you’ve a stunning, albeit small Edwardian table just off your kitchen that we found at an antique market and bought for a genuine song, which is ideal for taking meals and reorganizing your sewing box, when needed. While there’s nothing wrong with eating from the carpet per se, one does struggle with the overall visual. At least reassure me that you’re using plates.

Enclosed in this letter is a list of music I thought you might find pleasant during these isolated times, if nothing else these selections will provide both you and your neighbors a reprieve from perpetual repetition of “For The Longest Time” by Billy Joel. Word has reached us that the authorities have been contacted and as a family we feel it’s best if you fold in a bit of variety. There’s really no good that can come of them confiscating your phonograph, now is there?

Mother and Father, though separately, send their best. He won’t admit it, but Father’s been fashioning his own set of playing cards from the bark of a birch tree whose ownership is in dispute, as it sits directly on the property line between our lands and those belonging to the McGillicutty family next door. The tree therefore could be construed as half-clothed these days, its exterior layer on one side having been removed and transformed into hearts, clubs, diamonds, and spades. He looks forward to resuming your traditional game of Gin Rummy as soon as is feasible. Mother is still fermenting her own fruit, I report with regrets.

My dear aunt, do not despair. This time of solitude is only temporary, and hopefully a time of peaceful reflection and a reconfiguring of our priorities. I hope you don’t find my letter to imposing, it’s just that I know you’ll have to paint over your newfound passion for homemade living room hieroglyphics at some point, or risk your rather substantial security deposit upon departure from your current rooms, is all. I’d be happy to locate a skilled craftsman for you when the time comes.

Very pleased to hear the cat is in good health.

Your Niece,

Agatha

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Shani Silver is a humor essayist and podcaster based in Brooklyn who writes on Medium, a lot.

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NPR once called me a humor essayist, let’s go with that. Host of A Single Serving Podcast. shanisilver[at]gmail

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