These Days Are Numbered

By Rebecca Rosenblum

These Days Are Numbered
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The diary of a woman longing for community in a crowded downtown in pandemic times, when casual intimacies are forbidden.
Novelist Rebecca Rosenblum lives in St. James Town, Toronto — the most densely populated square kilometre in all of Canada. When the Covid-19 pandemic ... Read more


The diary of a woman longing for community in a crowded downtown in pandemic times, when casual intimacies are forbidden.
Novelist Rebecca Rosenblum lives in St. James Town, Toronto — the most densely populated square kilometre in all of Canada. When the Covid-19 pandemic and ensuing lockdowns arrive, she’s cut off from colleagues, friends, and family, and not allowed to go near neighbours. As the world constricts, Rebecca keeps a weird and worried diary online — a love letter both to the outside world that she misses so desperately, and the little world inside St. James Town that she can see from home.
As Rebecca watches and wonders from inside her box in the sky, her diary entries mix an account of a tough time in a tough place with joyful goofiness and moments of unexpected compassion.

Rebecca Rosenblum

Rebecca Rosenblum is the author of the short story collections Once and The Big Dream, and the novel So Much Love. Her work has been shortlisted for the Trillium Award and the Amazon Canada First Novel Award. Rebecca lives with her husband, author Mark Sampson, and their two cats in Toronto.


First Wave
March 13, 2020
It is very ominous to listen to or read or discuss the news today, but also today is the news. Everything everyone is doing is somehow part of whatever is going on with this virus thing—“should we go to work, what about vacation, how are you feeling, was there a big line at your grocery store?” We read the case counts every day. There are ten times more cases in the province this week than last week. About four hundred people died of it in Italy in the past two days. That’s … hard to imagine. I read a thing in the Guardian that hospitals in some regions in Italy are running out of beds and people are just in the hallways or lying in ORs. It’s hard to put that in the context of: Should I take the subway and sit next to someone who is sniffling? And yet … I worked from home today, more to avoid the subway than the actual office, so I guess that’s my answer. The lines are pretty long at the stores around here, but manageable. People seem a little freaked out, though. Polite, but the veneer is thin. Also, a lot of stuff is sold out, but I am definitely not up for going to more stores. That’s it for me and Apocalypse Pasta Aisle. Maybe later, if I’m feeling adventurous, I will go over to my mom’s building and stand under her balcony and wave at her.
I am probably going to have to go to work on Monday and,while I’m a bit envious of those who get to enact their social distancing properly, at home, I’m glad they are doing it because it makes it safer for those who can’t. Staying at home is ideal, but a subway car just for me would be second best, I think … [Edit from the future: work did not, in the end, make me commute that Monday…or ever again. ]
March 17, 2020
My parents are very reserved, quiet people. When I was born, they lived in a crumbling house on the outskirts of a tiny town and would have been happy living in an isolated splendour of three in their weird house all the time … until I learned to walk and my mom noticed that if she set me down in the grocery store, I would run away. I would run until I found another kid and then … I would kiss that kid. They realized I was lonely and put me in playschool and I have been able to avoid bothering anyone at the supermarket ever since.
This story seems relevant at this time.
March 18, 2020
Have you noticed the shortage of hand sanitizer in your local grocery and drugstores? Has everyone you know been talking to you about hand sanitizer supplies? Have you never really cared about hand sanitizer and just assumed you’d wash your hands with soap and water but now worry that you will die of contamination if you do not get some immediately? Well, I finally found a single, small, eleven-dollar bottle of hand sanitizer at a corner shop … just in time for the building to shut off our water. How is your incarceration going?
• • •
Update from day 6 of home jail: with both of us working from home, the cats have been somewhat nonplussed, but excited to try napping during the day in the rooms where the computers are. They aren’t allowed to do this when we aren’t here, owing to their tendency to nibble on wires. Today, with the water turned off, we have filled the bathtub as an emergency reserve and Evan (elder cat) displayed an alarming inclination to death by unsupervised drowning, so the bathroom door is now shut, leading to feline despair.
In human news, I have made enchiladas and am halfway through the four-day process of making bread. Mark started listing all his flaws this morning for no reason but is actually still good company after one hundred and twenty uninterrupted hours. With the gym shut, I’ve gone back to my seventeen-year-old Pilates DVD, which is still pretty good. Later I may do my nails, one of those things I normally don’t have time or patience for, and now I have so much. I feel that this period and attendant micro-updates are going to cost me a lot of Facebook friends.


In early March 2020, as the first wave of the pandemic closed in and big city life shifted in estranging ways, Rebecca Rosenblum began to chronicle the changes in herself and others in journal entries on social media. As we acquired new vocabulary, adjusted to new routines, and learned to cope with losses of all kinds, she probed personal and collective anxieties and conundrums. During walks through a deserted city, she conceived of herself as an eye, but she was also the beating heart of a community trying to finds its way during a collective trauma. In compilation, this diary is a record of where we’ve been and who we’ve been under unknowable and stressful circumstances. To read These Days Are Numbered is to witness a deeply curious, compassionate, and humane mind at work.

It’s shocking how much the worst days of the Covid-19 pandemic feel like ancient history. In these near-daily dispatches from the lockdown era, Rosenblum attempts to pin herself to the earth during a moment of global unmooring. In doing so, she provides an honest and very human accounting of a time that is already being erased from our collective memories.

An intimate portrait in which moments of pandemic grief and anxiety are always matched by humour, tenderness, and curiosity.

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