I miss long lines for boa buns at Smorgasbord and trying to find a spot to eat on a crowded lawn. I miss sweeping views on top of the World Trade Center and staring out at how small everything looks down below. I miss fighting my way on the 8:04 am train at 79th Street Station just so I could make it on time for my internship on Wall Street. I miss the way locals shuffled past me and how the tourist’s wishful faces stood in my way as they stared up of the buildings above. I miss the anxiety of fending my way past dirty Elmos in Time Square and the feelings of regret when I found myself walking down Broadway on a busy day. I miss rainy afternoons spent staring at a Rembrandt at the MET and dodging umbrellas that stay at eye level under scaffolding. I miss dinner dates at the same Ramen restaurant in Midtown and visiting friends at work on my off days. I miss the cobblestone streets of downtown and discovering gems across the Burroughs. I miss the breweries in LIC and bakeries in Brooklyn. I miss mornings spent working in cafés and smelling like roasted coffee beans for the rest of the day. I miss evenings at a dive bar and the first sip of a cool Guinness after an exhausting, meeting packed workday. I miss buskers on street corners and live punk shows in The Village. I miss coming across new places, and I miss what makes you, you, New York. But as NYC wakes up from this COVID slumber, can’t the rest of us across the country learn from NY and just wear a mask?
I’ll never understand why compassion for fellow humans is so difficult for some people. And as I see how the rest of the United States is trying to play catch up with the numbers that New York saw, I wonder why so many struggle with the notion of doing something small to care for others. Its a piece of cloth, something my boyfriend and all of his coworkers wear for 12 hours straight at work as healthcare providers. Why can’t we wear them for the hour-long trip to the store? Or the 30-minute walk outside?
It’s hard to describe what the City felt like these past few months while our numbers climbed to the height of skyscrapers. It’s hard to express the feelings of grief that blanketed the hollowed blocks and empty avenues. How I could suddenly wake up in the morning to chirping birds, but soon hear how that calming sound was replaced by the passing noise of wailing sirens. Sidewalks were quiet, strangers passed with caution, and there was a stillness to what remained of New York.
When COVID settled into the city, I told my friends that I wasn’t sure what to expect. I toed the line of how serious I should be taking this virus. I wondered if going out to the grocery store to stock up was necessary. I asked if this was being blown out of proportions. We heard rumors about the bridges shutting down, the city going into lockdown, and stores and schools closing. But they were all “rumors,” and no one knew what to believe.
“My friends, friend works for the government.”
“My dad reports on pandemics.”
“There is nothing to worry about…”
We heard the terrors of China and Europe, but we didn’t heed their cries. “Was this really worth worrying about?”
Part of me is mad. Mad that so many didn’t take this situation for what it was until the bodies stacked up inside refrigerator trucks. I saw how the world saw NYC. I responded to concerned texts from my family and friends around the world. They were seeing how The City was struggling. They saw the numbers double and the deaths that swept across their news outlets. I was mad that we didn’t know more. Mad about how I wasn’t scared. Now I want to remember what the privilege felt like to not know “if this was something to worry about.” Now I want to remember how scared we all are. And I want everyone else to remember that. Understand how I am at an advantage with starting a new job the day the city shutdown. Remember how the people around me are worse off than others.
But then as NYC started to wake up, the country decided to say they were over all of this. I saw friends in Florida, filling the beaches and bars. I saw how, when the summer came around, people demanded their freedom. But none of them in a million years would see themselves visiting the city anytime soon when our doors closed to the crisis. I see you all, the ones begging for others to be caring—the ones calling friends out for not doing their part. I see how you are all doing your best to not see the numbers that New York has seen. I see you sharing reasons why masks could work, and how even if they didn’t then what’s the issue with wearing cloth across our mouth and nose for a bit. I may miss New York and the charms the city has always had, but I know that this new normal will bloom something so beautiful in the city if everyone else could just do thier part and protect others.