So it’s Week 8. Are you still counting the days? For me, it’s day 54, as I began counting days on Sunday March 15, the day I no longer walked around, feeling life flow in and around me. At the time, I was working, a freelance job I’d been on for a long enough time that I had an office, I had a phone line, I had friends. On Thursday, March 12, the head of the department called a mandatory meeting for the staff, and told us we would be working remotely for at least the next three weeks. On that day, as well, The Teenager’s school was shutting down, sending students back to their homes. Also, on that day, I went to the doctor and discovered I had an ear infection and was prescribed a ten day treatment of amoxycillin. Those first few days were a frenzy; on the Friday, I went with Steve food shopping, the lines never-ending. At the Gowanus Whole Foods, shelves were emptied, we didn’t even bother to cruise the store, opting to go to Fairways in Red Hook. We stopped by Lowe’s as well for supplies; all the masks were gone, too late we were, too oblivious we were prior to the world coming undone. On that Saturday, I walked to the Duane Reade in Union Square with my best friend, who also lives in Stuytown, looking for hand sanitizer, to no avail. While inside, we split up and as I stood waiting for her, a man blew his nose walking by me. So began the paranoia of airborne germs.
For me, the eight weeks have been a lesson in humanity, patience and resilience.
In Week 6, the projects I’d been on came to a close; whatever lose strings were migrated to another person. And so I am one of the 30 million people who have filed for unemployment, and I am sure, I am one of 29 million people who have yet to get through. So when that assistance will come through, I have no idea. To date, I have called the unemployment line over 1,000 times, only to hear yet again, a recorded message telling me to call back.
But wait, here we are in Week 8, and here is where things get even more interesting. In New York, the epicenter of the Coronavirus, the weather is changing. People are coming out in droves. Not simply the dog walkers and the joggers, but everybody that’s been sheltering in place. And not all of them are wearing their masks. Even after being home for eight weeks, and knowing the math—of people hospitalized, of people dead—there are individuals walking the streets of New York City unmasked. I feel the Elaine Bennis in me coming out, the one that says, “Is that real fur?” I have bought handmade masks online and I have bought paper masks for 10 dollars a pop at the local drugstore and I even picked up a ten pack for $15 at Target. I am mask’ed up. I understand that in the first few weeks of the shelter-in-place edict, that it was difficult to find masks, and certainly hand sanitizer, but in Week 8 to be outdoors without a mask is alarming. Alarming in that so many of us are working so hard to get healthy, to get to the point of walking the world, and yet here are the invincible ones, the ones who could care less. So patience, patience ever that virtue, is the deep breath I take in.
I’m engaging though in other ways. Phone, text, the video way. Sometimes, even in person, with my masks on and feet between us. Those days, the days I see my friends, are highlights certainly.I speak with my mother and my daughter daily. And I watch a lot of what’s available; streaming is my best friend right now. The nights can be long. Sleep is packed with interruptions, the hot flashes and the anxiety waking me without mercy. My girlfriend in LA sent me a care package which included an Amazon gift card, facial masks, and a little bit of pepper spray. Thoughtful, and caring, always a sprinkle of sunshine they are.
So there’s we are. Week 8. Sun is out. Rocky at my side. Life as I know it, in the epicenter of the coronavirus.