To smile

Simple past: I smiled.

Present: I smize behind my mask.

Present continuous: I am squinting jovially and half-nodding at strangers on the sidewalk.

Future: I will miss this mask-acquired acne not one bit.

Future perfect: I will have forgotten how to smile without grimacing like a toddler who’s asked to say “cheese.”

To work

Simple past: You worked.

Present: You work from home.

Present continuous: You are Zooming.

Future: You will probably die in this all-hands Zoom meeting.

Future perfect: At least you will have collapsed on camera so somebody knows to call the EMTs, and you aren’t discovered two weeks from now after the neighbor’s GrubHub delivery person notices a smell.

To relax

Simple past: She relaxed.

Present: (not applicable)

Present continuous: (also not applicable)

Future: She will get out of this scalding shower in five more minutes, definitely, unless it’s 40 more minutes, or maybe next week.

Future perfect: She will have alienated her podmates by banning their children from her house after they mock her eye twitch.

To hug

Simple past: He hugged.

Present: He acts with an abundance of caution.

Present continuous: He is waving hello with both hands over FaceTime and pretending a virtual happy hour during his children’s bathtime counts.

Future: He will hug a lot of people when this is over, but not you, Jared.

Future perfect: He will have gained a new appreciation for the finer points of hugging after using this time of isolation to reflect on what used to make some people good huggers and others creepy huggers, like Jared.

To breathe

Simple past: You all breathed on each other constantly in the old days, just let people spray their aerosols into your eyeballs at parties and drool down the back of your neck on the subway, can you imagine??

Present: You all social distance, let’s hope.

Present continuous: You all are inhaling the scent of this morning’s egg sandwich and coffee inside your masks, and in some ways it’s for the best that no one is within six feet, now that you think about it.

Future: You all will feel weirdly thrilled the next time you go to spin class and smell a dozen people’s farts.

Future perfect: You all will have let your muscles atrophy so severely over a year of day-long Zoom meetings that the hot spin instructor has to tenderly lift your body off the bike after class (make sure to wear deodorant!).

To learn

Simple past: They learned.

Present: They remote learn (variant: they do not learn).

Present continuous: They are showing each other their belly buttons on Google Classroom.

Future: They will probably pass this grade, right?

Future perfect: They will have learned how to navigate the Netflix menu proficiently, at least.

To go (places)

Simple past: We went (places).

Present: We go (nowhere).

Present continuous: We are going (out of our minds in this house).

Future: We will go (to an airport and lick the bathroom stall door handles and then fall asleep on an airplane, lulled by the crush of strangers’ bodies, and wake up in Majorca — sorry, did I say ‘we’? I meant ‘I’).

Future perfect: We will have stayed (alive, dammit).