Sealed in our homes, we see few faces and look out our windows at an emptier world.

These days grow long and lonely. We are stripped of the usual hellos with baristas and librarians, neighbors and co-workers. Kids miss their friends. Artists miss their audiences. We glimpse loved ones on screens and behind windows. Even our public spaces share in the isolation, streets and sidewalks left empty.

• • •


Larry Tambini was inspired to write “Cabin Fever” after a musician friend in New York survived a bout with COVID-19. The friend was looking to collaborate on new music, and Tambini shared the song with him and other musician friends, who worked on it remotely via Zoom and Garage Band. “A few of the players are local and a few are from other states, but we all have the ability to share our work,” Tambini said. The bluesy song deals with coping with the “Groundhog Day”-like sensation of quarantine, drinking alone on the couch, pining for a chance to see friends again. “Although we can’t get together / You can bet, just like they say, this too shall pass / Times are bound to get better / When they do, I hope you’ll get on up and dance.”

— Submitted by Larry Tambini, Oldsmar

• • •


Missed Ya ( A Poem to All My Unseen Pals )

Missed ya half of winter

even most of spring

summer went by

like a blink of an eye

without doing nary a thing.

Here it is fall,

and the days

turtle crawl

what else will

this disaster bring?

I’m sick and tired of pundits

especially those who shout -

who have no frigging clue

just what it’s all about.

Still they rave

then change their minds

and tell us what to do,

meanwhile I’m stuck

in my house,

sorely missing you.

— Submitted by Tina Billias, Dunnellon

• • •

The ghost light at Freefall Theatre.
The ghost light at Freefall Theatre. [ Jay Cridlin ]

The theme of Freefall Theatre’s 2019-20 season is “Ghost Light.” The ghost light is a tradition in the theater world, where when the house empties out at the end of the night, they leave one light shining at the center of the stage. The coronavirus left the Tampa Bay theater scene shut down for weeks. But many theaters, including Freefall, kept their ghost light illuminated.

— Jay Cridlin, Tampa Bay Times

• • •

A hopeful headline in the time of coronavirus.
A hopeful headline in the time of coronavirus. [ Cindy Cockburn ]

“Missing someone. A new relationship. Now kept apart by the stay-at-home mandate. Sent this note to Sarasota. Cut out from the Wall Street Journal while home in St. Pete.”

— Submitted by Cindy Cockburn, St. Petersburg

• • •

Holly Wilke visits her mother, Mary Lou Lee.
Holly Wilke visits her mother, Mary Lou Lee. [ Holly Wilke ]

On the third anniversary of her grandmother’s death (her mom’s mom), Holly Wilke paid her mother a visit at Solaris Health and Rehab in Hudson. "I have not hugged my mom in a month. So today of all days, I wanted to make sure my mom remembers that she is not alone and not forgotten.”

— Submitted by Holly Wilke, Port Richey

• • •

Anna Solan's family connects from Europe through calls and video chats.
Anna Solan's family connects from Europe through calls and video chats. [ Christina Solan ]

Anna Solan, 87, entered hospice in early March. Aside from her daughter, Christina, her family lives in Europe and can’t visit to say goodbye. All they can do is call and Skype.

— Submitted by Christina Solan, St. Petersburg

Update: Solan died at her home on May 27, a day after this story published, her daughter said. This was the last picture they took together. “She was at peace," Christina said.

• • •

Friday at Stratford Court*

It’s midnight at the Stratford,

Though the clock shows only five.

The dining room’s deserted

And the lounge, usually alive

With folks awaiting dinner,

Is as silent as a tomb.

There's such an eerie feeling

In this place that we call home.

The “happy hour” was canceled;

Not a soul was on the scene.

The usual noisy chatter

Is but a distant dream.

The halls are all abandoned,

All apartment doors shut tight.

At this early midnight hour

There is scarcely any light.

Take heart now, Stratford Courters,

For this plague cannot long last;

And soon coronavirus

Will be just part of our past.

Until then, keep up your courage

And look hopefully to when

The midnight clock will chime out

That we've normalcy again.

* Stratford Court is an independent living facility in Palm Harbor, which is home to approximately 300 seniors.

— Submitted by Robert E. Thomson, Palm Harbor

• • •

A scene from a desolate Ybor City.
A scene from a desolate Ybor City. [ Serena Hodgson ]
A sign of the times in Tampa.
A sign of the times in Tampa. [ Serena Hodgson ]

Serena Hodgson wanted to capture places now devoid of human activity. “On my route to work, I’d always see the big sign right off the highway reminding everyone to ‘Practice Social Distancing.’ I remember the first time I saw it, I thought, ‘That’s definitely a sign of the times.’” These days, when she’s not out shooting film, she makes playlists, bikes and is learning to use a drum machine.

— Submitted by Serena Hodgson, Seminole Heights

• • •

Nothing left to play with.
Nothing left to play with. [ Keren Sharlow ]

“A 1-year-old looking out of the window, desperate for interaction, after going through all the toys in her room.”

— Submitted by Keren Sharlow, St. Petersburg

• • •

When Leilani Benson's mother's birthday came around, she couldn’t get too close.
When Leilani Benson's mother's birthday came around, she couldn’t get too close. [ Leilani Benson ]

Leilani Benson’s parents live in a nursing home, Pacifica Sun City Senior Living. She never thought that would stop her from hugging them. But on her mother’s birthday this year, she couldn’t get too close. “It broke my heart to stand behind glass to wish my own mother a happy birthday,” she said. “Unable to hug my own parents, leaving with the fear would this be my last memory of my parents — this is the reality for loved ones of nursing home residents.”

— Submitted by Leilani Benson, Sun City Center

• • •

Jennifer Connelly's portrait of her son.
Jennifer Connelly's portrait of her son. [ Jennifer Connelly ]

Sarasota area photographer Jennifer Connelly, who used to live in Tampa, wanted to capture childhood in a pandemic. Outside, playing with her son, this image came to her.

— Submitted by Jennifer Connelly, Nokomis

• • •









The Surreal


For all the stories in the series, click here.