I’ve been in NYC for the duration of my quarantine, in my 4th floor walk-up apartment at the cusp of Prospect Lefferts Garden and Flatbush in Brooklyn. Some people who were born here say PLG isn’t a real neighborhood, but other people will sharply correct me if I say I live in Flatbush. New Yorkers are like that.
As soon as the virus started traveling I knew NYC would become the epicenter in our hemisphere. The fact that the city I love would be devastated was logical. Common sense. I could see it like the proverbial handwriting on the wall. Or, more colloquially, graffiti on the closed storefront gates that line now eerily empty streets.
Those who could fled the city early. The rest of us are here, stuck in perpetual crisis, simultaneously adapting to and rebelling against a bizarre new way of life. Finding ritual where we can. The daily 7pm clanging of kitchen pots and pans ring out like church bells, calling us to isolated congregation of grim praise. A few brief, desperate moments of connection in a place that used to defy attempts to distance from others.
The daily 7pm clanging of kitchen pots and pans ring out like church bells, calling us to isolated congregation of grim praise.
It already feels like a litmus test of sorts: “real” New Yorkers vs those who left. Yet I have to admit it’s is hard at times not to feel twinges of envy over people who have access to second homes, families, connections. I take even more social media breaks than usual, overwhelmed by friend’s and stranger’s posts of walks on isolated beaches, from Florida to Seattle, Oregon to Massachusetts. Romps in gorgeous, wide-sweeping yards. Or simply images of family table gatherings, meals lovers consume together, etc. I know this is not easy for anyone in any circumstances. But doing this completely alone, trapped in my Brooklyn apartment…it’s a lot.
But I keep reminding myself that it is a choice – and one I wouldn’t change, even if I could. I do have family: a sister on the other side of the continent and a father on the other side of the world. But this is my home. Some people find their Person. I found my Place. I can’t imagine not being here, as terrifying and apocalyptically horrific as it feels at times, with images of temporary morgues on sidewalks and mass burials on an island for the unclaimed dead. Sometimes my sister gets high and texts a stream-of-consciousness invitation for me to come out and stay with her in Seattle – to escape all of this. Aside from the practical implications – an apartment, a job I’m hanging on to for dear life, a cat I’m not going to drag across country yet again, not to mention the obvious obstacles of travel restrictions – I don’t want to leave.
Some people find their Person. I found my Place.
I’ve been thinking a lot about my bond with this city. Why, after Sagittarian, tumblweed-like ramblings my whole life through Kansas, Texas, Oklahoma, Texas, Oklahoma, Oregon, Texas, Washington, Connecticut, Vermont…I finally put roots down deep in the concrete of NYC. As I approach my 8 year mark (so close to coveted 10 year badge) I realize it’s the longest adult relationship I’ve ever had (with place or person).
But it’s more than that. New York is where I got strong. Where I started healing myself. Where I patched together wounded pieces with a paintbrush dipped in gold and where I find myself more every day. And now this is where I quite literally beat death – something I’m sharply reminded of when I walk past my neighbor’s door and the neon green police seal across it. So many of us have survived. Too many of us haven’t.
When this eventually passes, as all things do, none of us know what kind of world we will step into. But I know there’s nowhere I’d rather face that challenge than with a bunch of scrappy New Yorkers who know how to rise from fucking ashes.