This winter, in collaboration with Covid-19

Bridget Kiley

I never wore socks before quarantine, but now I seem to always be in need of them — digging to the bottom of drawers to find a match, looking through dirty laundry — sniffing out more socks.

The cool tile in the kitchen pricks my feet. The wood floors in the dining room are even chillier where my laptop sits at a table that’s no longer used for dining. Now, I preemptively put on socks when I wake up and it makes the days a little quieter as I glide almost undetected across my apartment, flitting in and out as if not really there. It’s completely different from my pre-Covid worklife when everything felt urgent and loud, like the doors to the bus slamming behind me and the sound of my heels on the subway platform as I ran to catch a train. 

Before the pandemic, I used to wear a lot of tights, stockings, or bare legs, but rarely socks. In winter my uniform was loose dresses and mat black tights. When I wore socks, I’d wear black ones, usually stolen from my husband because it was infrequent enough that I didn’t need my own. On weekends, I was fine with bare feet; slipping from the bedroom to the kitchen in the morning to brew coffee, getting back in bed with said coffee, and waiting until eleven or twelve for my weekend plans to commence, which would sometimes involve socks, but just as often not.

Now every weekend is spent in our New Jersey apartment. We picked it for the cheap rent and access to the city, but also with the expectation that we wouldn’t actually be spending much time here. The pandemic changed that, and now we’re learning what it means to be New Jersyites, something we didn’t think we’d have to face. I look out the window over a land of sparkling suburban homes and it becomes even more apparent that this life isn’t for me. But it never used to matter as much because I had New York — I had her every weekday and most weekends and Jersey was just a place to sleep.

I wake up on a Saturday in January and look at my phone for an hour in bed. I walk into the living room and turn on American’s Test Kitchen, my favorite show, and drink my second cup of coffee. I notice that my feet are cold but I ignore it. By eleven o’clock, my feet are even colder as I’ve gotten up twice to go to the bathroom during commercial breaks. By eleven-thirty, I succumb. I have no plans today. I put on socks.

It strikes me that I never used to be home long enough to wear socks. In between commuting to Manhattan, I had brunches, nail appointments, yoga classes, birthday celebrations, or traveling home to Vermont. What used to feel normal, I now realize was fleeting.

My mom calls. She wants me to put her on speakerphone so my husband can hear, too. 

The socks you sent me for Christmas are my new favorite pair. She says.

They hit just above the ankle but not too high. And I love the way the pink flowers look rolled up over black leggings. She says.

Maybe I should get a pair. I say.

When I hear myself say it, I immediately recoil. Since when did I get excited at the prospect of new socks? I understood why my family did. They had to endure tough Vermont winters and spent Saturdays hiking rather than brunching. I hadn’t needed a warm pair of L.L. Bean socks since high school. Before the pandemic, when I would go to Vermont, I’d bring my three pairs of wool socks that I only pulled out a few times a year for this occasion. I’d wear them the entire time, and when I returned home, I’d wash them and place them back at the bottom of my drawer.

It wasn’t until this winter that I realized how much my life has changed. It wasn’t until I opened my drawer one day and the darned socks came rolling out that it became clear: I’m stuck with a bunch of frumpy old socks that I don’t even like and I’m haunting an apartment I never wanted to live in.

I wake up late on a Monday. It’s 8:45 am and I need to turn my laptop on and log into the VPN by 9 am. I drag myself to the kitchen table where I keep my laptop, notebook, and i-Pad. I power everything up and close my eyes as I wait for the day to load. Slowly, things start to chime: Outlook, Gmail, Jabber, Slack, Microsoft Teams, all the bullshit. I keep my eyes closed, not wanting another day to begin, but the noises of Monday grate in my ears. I open my eyes and start to click through new emails. The coffee maker dings and I excitedly get up from my chair and pour myself a cup. Back at the dining room table, my hands are warm around the mug. The weather outside is snowy for the first time this winter. A gray, Jersey sky hangs overhead. Even though I know how cold and disastrous the weather is outside and how warm and quiet things are in here, I’d give anything for a reason to venture out. I want to stand, freezing, waiting for my bus — bump into people and trip my way down the subway stairs. I want to run for the train, a trail of socks burning in my wake.

Bridget Kiley is content marketing & social media strategist. Her professional writing experience is backed by a passion and deep knowledge of creative writing, for which she holds an MFA from The New School.