The same stream of life that runs through my veins night and day runs through the world and dances in rhythm


When crossing the street in Vietnam, you do it with rhythm

Two, four, six lanes of traffic, steady. Cadent.

Like how you pass days in quarantine.

We’re stuck here

For the first couple days after the COVID test, each ring of the doorbell, each wail of a siren makes the heart skip

Are they coming for us

It’s not rational, this response.

But neither is 2020

The hours dim and bleed into days. No ambulance visit, no PPE squadron, no alarms.

We gain confidence.

Most interruptions to the daily rhythm are benign, helpful. Even comforting.

ding dong

I mark the now-worn path to the door, slip the mask over my ears, and crack it ajar.

If the walkie-talkie is echoing, it’s probably food. A rattling cart, housekeeping, gifting towels and soap. Young Duc, smiling through his mask, attentive and eager to make our stay better. He’s doing the hard work for us.

Or it might be the nurse, resplendent, head to toe in cadet blue, mask, and glasses. Thermometer in hand and now, my face.


Still free.

Her visits give rhythm

But something about her, perhaps that blue suit, triggers

the bus coming to an abrupt halt and jerking my lagging neck. it’s next level disorientation, the kind that could only arrive after 48 hours of transit, four flights, 11 time zones, and a disaster nap

where are we

I fumble for the zip on my suit, restore my mask and glasses, and stagger down the steps to the assault of humid and hot

The roundabout and facade confront us, but it’s not a typical hotel welcome. No refreshing face towels, no friendly smiles.

This is all business.

We pull our bags off the pile, staggering, stumbling, incoherent, messy humans. As we approach the entrance to the hotel, we hesitate.

A man with an insecticidal spray can gives a couple quick pumps. Our bags and pants are saturated with what smells like home

if home was a chemical factory

We disrobe and discard. Stumble into the lobby

your name please

We are ordered into the elevator

ten ten and ten twelve

The realization that we will be apart now hits. Rhino with me, Elephant with Mama. A hurried, bleary farewell, as we are ushered into our spaces

Alone. Separate, but together.

I pause as the door closes behind. Heart races, breath quickens, I feel dizzy. Then exhaustion hits. There is no sense of calm, for now, no cadence.

No rhythm.

Mercifully, we find sleep, and sleep finds us.


The floor to ceiling windows light our way and offer the distraction of the world, moving along, taking place

without us.

We are both absent and here at once. Observers of the world, we call out to see if we still exist.

We are here

can you see us

Endless bikes pursue the expressway below, diverting only so slightly when a brave pedestrian makes her way to cross the road

She moves with confident grace, purposeful,

She lends us her rhythm

And as we watch from above, stuck inside, life, here, and now,

We are grateful.

We send messages through the wall, sneak peeks around the corner, blow kisses through our masks

And find support from friends, some old, most new. Sequestered together within these walls. We share worry, grief, exasperation,

We make use of granite table tops, soft chairs, the same worn carpet, our gym for daily workouts

We ebb, and flow.

Alone. Separate, but together.

We navigate with humour, gratitude, kinship, patience. A shared determination that we will get through this.

That all is relative, impermanent, and so many have it worse than us.


The breathtaking lightning storm that visits tonight

Reminds us of what is out there

That at its heart, this year is teaching us all that we are entitled to nothing

but the rhythm of our days, in all their uneven glory.

And, so.

we take nothing for granted

and look forward to the next time we can cross the street.



Published by Radutti

Teaching in Ha Noi, screwing things up daily but surviving to write about it. ...everything's perfectly all right now. We're fine. We're all fine here now, thank you. How are you?

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  1. Love you guys. Thinking of you always and getting through to the end (or the beginning!). Hugs and love. Christa


  2. “this year is teaching us all that we are entitled to nothing
    but the rhythm of our days, in all their uneven glory.”
    This is such evocative writing Darren… and such truth in your words. So glad you made it through and are home and safe. Looking forward to seeing you in person.


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