I write to you from my couch, here in Stuytown, which is located practically on the East Side River, just above the East Village. During Hurricane Sandy, at the Con Ed station across the street from my apartment building, one of the 62 substations in the area, a transformer exploded, leaving lower Manhattan in a blackout for days, a somnambulant city, regenerating. Downtown New Yorkers found refuge elsewhere, uptown, wherever, and this neighborhood was quiet, businesses running on generators, people in Tompkins Square Park, badly in need of a shower. I walk by that same Con Ed station on some days when I walk Rocky, and it is a ghostown now, but of course, for a different reason. I am living in the epicenter of the pandemic and I see it everywhere.
This morning, I went to the CVS on First avenue, to pick up a prescription. I was there at 8am, hoping to avoid lines. I was successful in my avoidance, I was the only person at the pharmacy counter, a curtain of a plastic shield between me and the pharmacists behind it. I had to present ID, and I did, my drivers license wrapped in a sheet of Saran Wrap. So few people in the CVS, all of them wearing masks. As I crossed the wide street that is First Avenue, it was void of cars, except for one bus, waiting I suppose for the passengers yet to take the First Avenue bus uptown. 8am on a Friday morning, and this is my view.
The emptiness in this little pocket of New York city is real.
In Stuytown, in week four, the complex is cracking down on social distancing. Now, when you enter the elevator, there is a sign on the wall recommending you wait for the next cab up to your floor if there is someone in the elevator cab, not to share elevators with your neighbors. The laundry rooms are open 24/7, but between 7am and 10am, it’s reserved for our senior citizens. There are a lot of dog owners in Stuytown, and for the dogs who are friendly, I can see the confusion in their bodies when their leashes are pulled taut, away from their fellow canines they are so used to playing with. Some of the dog owners are letting their dogs off leash, in certain fenced off grassy areas, so their dogs can run around, the quarantine affecting them too. Rocky for instance, is always attached to me. When I’m on the couch, he plops his thick body up against my thigh, snoring blissfully, only perking up when I get off the couch. Normally he sits in his beanbag on the floor, his designated spot, but with me here full-time for the last four weeks, not leaving him alone except for those few times I went to Trader Joe’s, he’s aware there is a shift in the air.
For normalcy, I am doing the things I must. I apply for jobs, because as you know, I am looking for a staff job, I reach out to my colleagues who are LinkedIn connected, hoping some thread will weave its way to a true tapestry. I do my half hour yoga class with Taylor Harkness online. I make my three meals, I try not to snack. I walk Rocky three times a day, but of course, his last walk of the day, is short AF, as he is not interested in being anywhere but the couch come nightfall. I’m writing, and I plan to resurrect my Vampire Detective novel, make it YA focused, and find its audience. I text with my friends, I reach out to my friends I haven’t heard from, I call my mother twice a day. And of course, I Facetime with The Teenager, who is safely ensconced with her boyfriend and his family in the suburbs.
I was tuning into Governor Cuomo in Week One and Two, but now, in Week Four, I can not watch his reports, his body sagging with the weight of the city, the stress of it, how could it not, rampant and ravaging his features. I can’t seem to watch my favorite late night talk shows, their searing critique of Trump, of their take on COVID, it’s overwhelming. I’m watching Fallon though, as he keeps it fun, his shift towards life and family. Easier for me to digest while staying aware. I ache, oh how I ache.
I’m wearing my mask made by Diana Kane. The shift to wearing masks happened for me in Week Three; I spent ten dollars at the local pharmacy on a mask, but those are disposable, and I need one for the long haul. I discovered another pharmacy near me guilty of price gauging, charging 75 dollars for a box of 100 latex gloves, when only a week ago, it was 9.99. I discovered too, that the lens wipes from Prince & Spring are effective sanitary wipes for my phone. My freezer is packed with loaves of gluten-free bread, which I enjoy toasted with a shmear of peanut butter in the morning, onion rings, and edamame. My vegetable drawer is packed with Ghiradelli dark chocolate. Everyday, I walk Rocky, three times a day, and every day, three times a day, I wonder if it’s possible to re-train him to relieve himself in my apartment, and every day three times a day, I realize that, that won’t be possible. I ordered groceries via Fresh Direct, and the man who dropped my food off was wearing gloves and a mask, and I was relieved to see that. I am aware of every ache and chest movement and slobber of phlegm in my body, hyper aware, in ways that I used to shrug off as normal, as in, I’m always battling a cold, that’s normal. The thermometer is used several times a day, as is the pulse oximeter, but not as frequently as the wave of hot flashes. I am making new rules for my sanity as I live it.
I am a New Yorker and I am here, in the epicenter of the American version of the novel coronavirus.