Week One: Life in the Epicenter of the Coronavirus. March 21, 2020

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Hello from my couch.

At the moment, I’m watching Little Fires on Hulu. I did not read the book. I am enjoying it thus far.

So, the first week of shelter-in-place without really calling it as such. Quarantine, is the official world so far. I live in Stuytown, a sprawling apartment complex in New York city. Over 11,000 units here. Some people have spent their whole lives here. There are elderly folk, and there are young families. In fact, the family I hear the most lives on the other side of the floor I live on; our apartments share the wall. A couple early in their marriage, with a toddler. The child cries on the brightest and the cloudiest of days; she knows not from what her parents are coping with, the fatigue of a restless child. Across the hall from me is an elderly wheelchair bound woman; when I first moved in, she left me a welcome-to-the-neighborhood package of beautiful teas and crackers. She has a trail of healthcare workers in and out of her apartment, every day. It’s not unusual to see security at her door either, as she is often hard to reach; her loved ones are concerned for her, have been even before the Coronavirus became a fearful part of our vernacular. My other neighbors are more random, bodies I pass and have passed in the elevator, on the floor, in the year and a half that I’ve lived here. In the lobby of my building, one of 40 in Stuytown, hand sanitizer has been placed. Every day I clock the level it’s at, and when it’s almost empty, I know the next time I see it again, it will be full.

Everywhere I look in Stuytown, however, I see children. I see parents churning under the strain of spending 24/7 with their children. I see the glee on their kids faces, having all of Mommy and Daddy. They have no idea, no idea, how hard this is for their parents. The parents who work outside the home are in their own state of culture shock. The parents who work inside the home are under siege. Both subsets have no relief. Parents’ anxiety of their children coming into any contact with others are at an all-time high. There is no relief, no relief at all coming for the parents, not while the spread of the virus is at its astronomical pace.

In the past week, I have not left  Stuytown. It’s my only view of the world right now.

I have been on lockdown for a week. On Friday of last week, I—along with the rest of this city—was frantically shopping for provisions. I know now that I’m okay, food wise, the groceries stores are open for business, limited hours. At Trader Joes, on Thursday, I bought myself a birthday cake, not sure if I would be observing or not, and the cashier told me things had slowed down, and in fact, the line I was on had moved quickly, it was almost non-existent. I gave him my packet of antiseptic wipes. I am coping, as are you. I wake up at 7:30 everyday, thanks to Rocky. He gets fed, I shower. I do all the things I would do to see the world: I dress, I walk Rocky, I wash my hands when I get us back in the apartment, I answer emails. On lockdown, it’s critical for me to maintain a structure. I limit my trips to the kitchen in between meals. I wipe down a lot. I have resurrected my yoga practice thanks to my dear friend. I speak to my friends, I text with my friends, I Facetime with my daughter. Finding human connection for me has been as critical as having structure. I even have a bedtime, lights are out by midnight. Sometimes sooner.

It is all emotionally exhausting. The comfort, is that my daughter is safe, with her boyfriend and their family in New Jersey. Back here, in the epicenter, the fears are rampant. How will I survive without a steady income? The cost of health insurance is debilitating and yet I have to maintain it. What if I catch a cold?  So many fears, so few answers.

For now, I have the structure. And the structure is the raft on which I float.


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