“Our New York is scraped raw and almost eerily still…”
“Epicenter” is a word they’ve said, we’ve said, I’ve said, you’ve said. Before, I didn’t care but this time I wish we meant it was the fashion epicenter, the entertainment epicenter, the business epicenter.
And people who aren’t here ask from my computer monitor, “How is it? How’s New York?”
Our New York is scraped raw and almost eerily still, especially on sullen gray days. On sunny days it’s a little better, and I spend more time outside, but it’s hard to enjoy myself, to feel much. Occasionally, I cry. I try to smile at everyone I see, but am letting that go, little by little. When I go out for groceries, I go into expedition mode, stopping to examine a flower or talk to a neighbor, but always cutting the moment short, always moving on.
Bike rides are the best; you’re going too fast to think too much. All you can do is deal with the fact that you are moving, feel the air on your arms, feel like you are gliding through the city you love.At home it’s oh so quiet, and I turn on the radio while in the kitchen, even though there’s an 90 percent chance for coronavirus content. I browse my phone to make the water boil faster and there I can find stories, images, of the hospitals in this city, where staff are working inhuman hours, where ER lines stretch down the block, where nurses are on the floor, cutting up Glad bags to use as scrubs, and lung failure is the number one cause of death. They are together with the dying, the sick, doing the ultimate work, serving with fear and dignity. It’s too much to believe.
Sirens wail outside — are there more because there are more? Or is it only now we can hear them as we’ve just only now turned off the news again? Because it’s only two weeks in and we’re going to need stamina to survive this, to find some way to thrive in this. Out my window a couple times now I’ve heard recorded messages blasting from police cars, about staying six feet away from other people. Other times, instead of machines and humans I hear birds. And when I stand in the backyard, I look at the windows of the neat row of houses with their neat fences all down the block and I think contentedly how there’s a person behind each one (well maybe not each one but most because, you know, the ones in the hospital). I think about all those homebound people I can’t see, can’t touch, wondering like me, and I get a little overwhelmed for all of us.
Amira Pierce was born in Beirut and lives in Brooklyn. She is a lecturer in NYU’s Expository Writing Program, where she specializes in working with international students — usually in person, but she has recently become an online instructor. Visit her at amirawpierce.com.