Middle of April, New York City 2020
A parallel universe:
The streets…unusually calm, a bit eerie, spooky, so empty.
The hospitals…loud, stressed, fearful, chaotic.
A bridge crosses into Brooklyn. I’m sitting in our apartment feeling torn in between those two realities: on one hand a horror movie that I see in the local news every day and on the other hand I lay lamely on the couch as if it's a standard lazy evening. It doesn't fit together. I am hanging out on the couch while other people are summoned to the grave task of exhaustingly fighting for other people’s survival. How is this duality fair?
I walk aimlessly through the streets of my neighborhood in Brooklyn. It’s on the water facing downtown Manhattan. The tourists would normally occupy these streets taking pictures of the two bridges framing the iconic skyline here but they are all gone now. Sometimes I am one of the few people walking around. A lot of the locals packed up their belongings and left our high-rise building. Where did everyone go? To their parents house? To a secluded cabin in the woods? Should we leave too? Are we naïve to stay? An inner voice tells me that I can't just run away as things get too problematic, can I? What is the fine line between bravery and foolishness? Perhaps it just comes down to options? A few days later I confirm that 70% of our fellow residents are gone.
To break the monotony my husband and I go out to get socially distant coffee twice a day. It becomes a big deal for us. We are very thankful that the local coffee shop has found a way to remain open and to serve our community. The daily talk with the barista is the social highlight of our day. I begin to understand how important social contact is to humans, we can always make our own coffee but choose the social activity. It gives us a purpose to help a local business stay afloat.
I worry daily about my family, friends and about our own well being. I keep watching the news, and can’t look away, it becomes an addiction. I'm afraid. Every day I watch Governor Cuomo’s briefings. First he hits you with the hard facts, then he calmly tells you which rules to follow. He finishes off with consoling and comforting words:
New York is tough
His reassuring words carry us through the next few weeks. Up and down. Feelings are felt. And some days one of us is angry or desperate. Sometimes I cry. Although the rules are not implemented by law in NY we all follow them. And that is the big difference between the US and Germany. Germany implements health restrictions through laws and there are no grey areas. Still it appears to work as the infection numbers continue to stay low.
Meanwhile here in New York guidelines are recommended and there is more of a social pressure that applies through the community. And it is clear, that if you decide to live in New York City you're also responsible to protect its residents. We're all in this together and this also works. The curve here flattens.
One of the saddest moments is when we take a walk in the evenings and see the Empire State Building from afar. Usually a beacon of hope and a show of strength, now the lights pulsate in red, like an ambulance or perhaps still encouragingly like the heartbeat of New York City. The view brings me to tears as it shows the tragedy of this metropolis.
After six weeks my husband and I allow ourselves to rent a car to take a quick drive through Manhattan. Freedom! I haven't been on the subway for weeks, I haven't been in Manhattan. Even though I can see the Manhattan skyline every day from Brooklyn I can’t feel or see the reality from the ground floor. It couldn’t be further away. After all of the TV viewing it’s good to finally see the real thing with our own eyes.
Back in the day when I was traveling to New York City as a teenager to take dance classes, never in a million years would I have imagined that I would be living here during a pandemic.
Every night before I fall asleep I send out healing energy to the sick and strength for those who lost a loved one. I also send wishes of health to my family and friends. And I always hope this is part of a bigger plan.
To wake us up, to make us understand that working together is more important than fighting against each other.
For now the city that never sleeps has laid down and decided to take a nap. It doesn’t feel like it is resting, since a part of it is fighting for its residents’ lives. But I believe while New York City is sleeping, it is also dreaming. It is dreaming of a new era, one that brings change for the better. More kindness, love, equality and respect.
The city will again wake up rejuvenated with new life and purpose and will open it’s arms towards those of us willing to adapt with it.
Here is to you NYC, to your evolution…and ours.