Local News

Tales from the End of the Road; Living through COVID19 in Key West Part 5

April 26, 2020:

Quarantine Day 40:

The whole house settled into a sort of lethargic post-party slump today. We nibbled on leftover tea sandwiches and cookies, kept the shades drawn until nightfall, and tapped into every streaming service we collectively had. I’ve noticed that the central air conditioner isn’t pumping out as efficiently as it usually does, and it’s getting a little stagnant in our second-story apartment.

This is when I wish I was up north during this quarantine. I know it was chilly and damp up there while I was enjoying sunshine and a warm breeze in the beginning, but shortly after we were all ushered into our homes, they shut down the beaches and Mother Nature seemed to up the temperature.

I don’t mean to sound like a brat. I’m lucky that I have central air. It’s a luxury I’m enjoying for the first time on my little island. But damn, 91 degrees Fahrenheit is brutal, especially when your bedroom windows don’t give you much of a cross breeze.

April 27, 2020:

Quarantine Day 41:

The a/c guy came today! We were nervous that his visit would bring to our landlord a giant bill involving needed parts or maybe a whole new unit altogether. Luckily, our savior came in the form of a scrawny man with a face mask who drained some magic line attached to our apartment, and voila! Ten minutes after he left, I felt cool as a cucumber.

When I first went into quarantine, I made a promise to treat myself to something nice if I made it to 40 days. Specifically, I wanted sushi and craft cocktails, and I didn’t want to be the one to make any of it. Shoutout to Misohappy for delivering two lunch special sushi plates, and to General Horseplay, for delivering pre-bottled Old Fashioneds and Mai Tais. I spread everything out on my dining room table, and for a few minutes, I forgot about my cabin fever.

April 28, 2020:

Quarantine Day 42:

Another lazy day has passed. I woke up late, checked on the status of my unemployment (still nothing), and climbed back into bed dejected and anxious. Later, Myles and I went to Publix for supplies to find two cashier lines open. I found it odd that they had taken painstaking measures to make the aisles one-lane and put signs everywhere warning people to stay six feet apart, yet here were 16-20 people all congregated at the checkout line waiting to leave. I joked to Myles that I hadn’t even hung around my best friends in over a month as closely as I was hanging around 16 people I didn’t know.

I also learned how many people don’t know how to properly wear a medical mask. I’ve mentioned earlier how my trips to Publix involve seeing some crazy version of personal protection gear, but this whole new crop of people left me incredulous as I left.

Still wearing my mask and sunglasses, I stopped into the adjacent liquor store to stock up on some vodka. My first instinct would normally be to remove whatever clothing or accessories are covering my face so that a) I don’t look like I’m going to rob the place and b) the cashier may properly ID me at checkout.

I approached the Plexiglas and got out my driver license. I made a motion to at least remove my sunglasses, but he told me it was unnecessary. He took my ID and glanced at me.

“Looks just like me, right?” I joked.

“So beautiful,” he said as he handed it back.

It must suck to have the responsibility of checking IDs during this pandemic. You don’t know if the person behind the mask is who they say they are. It’s the perfect time for minors to attempt buying alcohol. I don’t wish it on anyone.

April 29, 2020:

Quarantine Day 43:

Today is my sixth-year anniversary of living in Key West! I celebrated by going to the beach and dipping my toes in the sand. Although the road to the Keys is closed to tourists, the governor relaxed the stay-home rules for Florida, opening up city beaches as long as we practice social distancing and do not congregate in large groups. I have to say, I was very proud to see my fellow locals adhering to the rules, and when I personally felt that there were enough people on the beach, I headed home to open up some space and let others get the sunshine they needed and deserved.

I was only supposed to be on this island for six months, but here I am six years later, and I’m so happy I stayed. This paradise can chew you up and spit you out, but if you’re good to the island, the island will be good to you. And it has been so good to me.

April 30, 2020:

Quarantine Day 44:

I found out this week that my restaurant is officially waiting until June to open. I think it’s smart. Even though the Overseas Highway is closed, tourists are slowly trickling back in. I don’t know why; most restaurants and bars are completely closed, with only a handful open for takeout. The roadblocks are still up on the Overseas Highway, yet there have been hundreds of people trying to get into the Keys with fake residence stickers printed out of Miami. You know how to spot a tourist at a checkpoint during a pandemic? They tape their fake printer-paper “sticker” to the outside of the windshield of their rental car. These are people coming from the COVID-19  hotspots located just north of Monroe County. I’m perplexed as to why they want to be here. But they’re here, roaming around aimlessly, asking us locals why things aren’t open.

May 1, 2020:

Quarantine Day 45:

I hit the beach again today. I’m so glad some of them are open, because if I’m going to be stuck in paradise during this pandemic, I’d at least like to have a tan to show for it!

Myles has been doing some livestream sets from our back porch recently, but today he met up with a fellow musician and they did a show on Facebook Live at Sunset Pier. In this town that relies so much on live music and socializing, it’s kind of nice to be able to mimic that from the comfort and safety of your own home, you know?

May 2, 2020:

Quarantine Day 46:

Today, we got “off the rock,” as we locals call it. That means doing anything that requires leaving this 4×2 mile piece of dried-up coral and hitting the Overseas Highway due north. This could mean going to Miami, or Key Largo, or even a coffee shop 20 miles up the road. For us, it meant driving about 40 minutes to a swimming hole located near Big Pine Key. There weren’t too many people there, and the water was ice-cold (I say that loosely. For someone from the north, it was probably like bath water). I snacked on a sandwich and read my Kindle. I’m currently reading Michelle Obama’s memoir. It felt like an honest-to-goodness vacation, if only for the day. The ocean has always drawn me to it. I was born by it. I feel at ease by it. I feel at home in it. If my life has to be put on hold, I’m really glad that the holding pattern is over the Caribbean Sea.

LBB Lauryn Lucy Brooke is a bartender who lives in Key West, Florida. Her favorite activities used to be traveling, scuba diving, and hanging out with friends. None of which she can do now.  Lauryn has a Masters Degree in Journalism from CUNY.