It’s Day 60 of the South African lockdown. And today, it is time to fetch the bolt cutters.

I wake up in my usual fog, lying in bed in the chilly darkness, reaching to remember what day it is. I stagger into the kitchen to feed the cats and make coffee, telling myself I need to go for a run — or a walk, at the very least — but instead crawl back under the covers with my phone.

Scrolling mindlessly through social media, I suddenly remember that last night I downloaded Fiona Apple’s new album, Fetch the Bolt Cutters. I’d been listening to a review of the album on a New York Times podcast, just before drifting off to sleep, and after hearing one brief clip I knew I needed this music in my life.

It’s time to listen. I spring out of bed, brush my teeth, and get dressed. I slip my phone into my jacket’s inside pocket, tie on my mask, insert my headphones, and walk Melville from end to end as Fiona’s syncopated rhythms fill my ears.

I’ve been/
thinking about when I was trying to be your friend/
I thought it was then/
But it wasn’t/
It wasn’t genuine/

Fetch the bolt cutters/
I’ve been in here too long/
Fetch the bolt cutters/
I’ve been in here too long/

These words hit me so hard, so quickly. I’m on the verge of tears.

I climb the steep, stone stairway between 6th Avenue and 5th Avenue. Halfway up I look out and see the rising sun, shining just so over the tin roof of a house. I don’t take a picture.

I hadn’t found my own voice yet/
So all I could hear was the noise that/
People make when they don’t know shit/

I head up 5th Avenue, passing a masked lady in shorts walking two tiny dogs. I smile and call hello and I think she smiles back. But of course I’m not sure.

Our 6-9 a.m. exercise restriction will end next week, when South Africa moves from a Level 4 to Level 3 alert level. I’m happy but also sad. I don’t want to lose the communal feeling of these morning strolls.

I grew up in the shoes they told me I could fill/
Shoes that were not made for running up that hill/

I bump into Aguil and Madi, who I see on most morning walks. They’re walking uphill as I walk down. “I’ve become a morning person!” says Aguil incredulously, a little breathlessly. “But it’s just so cold.” I laugh and nod in agreement. We continue on.

As I walk down the hill, I look carefully at the bougainvillea hedge to my right. I spot him — the man who makes a bed for himself in this hedge, so carefully camouflaged I almost miss him. He’s stretched out, flush against the wall, with his eyes closed.

I gently place the paper bag I was carrying, with a few pieces of fruit and some nuts in it, on the ground beside his head. His eyes open. “Here’s some food for you, man,” I say, and he nods. I hear the bag rustling loudly as I walk away.

Bougainvillea flowers

I would beg to disagree/
But beggin disagrees with me/

Kick me under the table all you want/
I won’t shut up/
I won’t shut up/

I turn up 9th Street. I go running up this street all the time but rarely walk it. I see an adobe-colored border wall I’ve never noticed before, with open-ended vertical pipes on either side of the gate. Small, delicate, succulent leaves grow out of the top of each pipe.

Evil is a relay sport/
When the one who’s burned turns to pass the torch/

I resent you for being raised right/
I resent you for being tall/
I resent you for never getting any opposition at all/

Four dogs, of four different colors and four different sizes, bark at me from behind a fence. Fiona’s music barks at me too. There are dogs barking in several of the tracks. I also hear Fiona’s dishes clanging and a single cat’s meow.

I wonder what lies he’s telling you about me/
to make sure we’ll never be friends/

You’re wearing time like a flowery crown/
Sitting there, sitting that big cat down/

And I’m alone on the summit now/
Trying not to let my light go out/

I climb the stairway between 7th Avenue and 8th Street, looking up at my old Melville house on the right. I hope to see Lucky outside, working in the garden, but there’s no sign of him.

People like us we play/
With a heavy balloon/
We keep it up to keep the devil at bay/
But it always falls way too soon/

As I head back down 6th Avenue, toward my house, the sky grows darker. We won’t see much sun today.

I spread like strawberries/
I climb like peas and beans/
I been suckin it in so long/
That I’m burstin at the seams/

I’m back my house, tears streaming down my face as I tear off my face mask and unlock the door.

I sit inside with Trixie, sipping coffee, and listen to the rest of what Fiona has to say.

Like you know you should know/
But you don’t know what you did/

Well good mornin, good mornin/
You raped me in the same bed
/
Your daughter was born in/

I grab a notebook and start writing down the lyrics that whack me the hardest, like slabs of wood. When the album is over I start it again, and keep writing. I fill six pages of the notebook.

Why did you take it all away/
Why did you not want to try/

And you don’t want to talk with me at all/
Why’d you take it all away/
I did nothing wrong/
I don’t believe it/
I don’t believe it/
I don’t believe your reasoning/

Now I understand you’re a human/
And you’ve got to lie you’re a man/
And you got to get what you want how you want it/
But so do I/
And I wanted to try/

Why did you not want to try/

How did you know to make this album now, Fiona? How did you know? It’s everything.

Fetch the bolt cutters, bitches.

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