Today, I took a short walk around my neighborhood. It was a short jaunt, no more than three streets over before I banged a right, walked down that block, paralleled my steps to return to my home block. I walked a steady clip and was out for barely half an hour, but it felt good. It was the longest I had been outside in weeks since this pandemic, shelter-in-place, self-quarantine, social distancing madness began. The last time I had been outside at all was to throw out my days old trash. I was not even outside for a total of five minutes and it was midnight. I took the opportunity to also collect my mail and drop off my rent check on the first floor for my landlord. The idea was to multitask in one trip to minimize the time I spent breathing shared air. I live on the top floor of a brownstone. The space is all mine. Downstairs is all shared space. We use the head of railing as a mailpost. Rent check, rent receipt, packages, light bulbs, batteries. If we spot it and know we didn’t place it there, we know it’s meant for the other.
I’m not panicking about the virus, per se, but I am cautious. I see the uptick in the numbers and it makes me more sad than anxious. I’ve stopped watching the daily press conferences, and I skim headlines and articles. I accidentally turned on Yahoo alerts on my phone, so I’m still aware of what’s going on in my city and state. I live in the the epicenter of this mess. Javits Center, the venue where the 2011 ceremony for my grad school graduation from New School University was held, has been transformed into an emergency hospital to handle the patient overflow from the regular hospitals.
Bronchitis has knocked me on my ass three times in the past two years. I cannot and do not want to tango with this beast. With all the vitamin c, echinacea, sea moss, bee pollen, black seed oil, honey, lemon, apple cider vinegar, tea, ginger, turmeric and garlic floating in my blood, I could probably knock out corona. My immune system better be boosted. But probably is not a chance I am willing to take. By not following Governor Cuomo and Dr. Fauci’s orders, the Universe may hand over a TKO in favor of the coronavirus. I’m good. You can have this one, Rona.
Wanting to play my part in flattening the curve, I’ve been staying home. The last time I ventured past the gate was to grocery shop and again to get my eye prescription. CVS said I had one more day to get it. Not knowing when this is going to end, I walked instead of riding the bus to get it. While I was out, I used to opportunity to get some more groceries. Now I’ve been home so long, it’s time to re-up.
Cabin fever, stir crazy, restlessness have become my freeloading roommates. I try to kick them out with daily workouts and semi-regular meditations, but they battle back in the form of sleepless nights, multiple trips to the kitchen, watching TV ad nauseum. The past few weekends, I have turned my brain to mush with the dozens of hours of TV watching. Last weekend: The Happytime Murders, Welcome Home Rosco Jenkins, Uncorked, American Son, Tiger King and a repeat of The Wiz. Turns out, it was Diana Ross’ birthday.
I had two hours left on the audiobook With The Fire on High by Elizabeth Acevedo, but due to my slacking, Libby auto-returned it to New York Public Library before I could find out how Emoni Santiago fared in her culinary arts class. Today was the last day for my rental of Sissy by Jacob Tobia. I had five hours left, so I increased the listening speed and got it done. There’s a long wait so I could not renew. Another hold would mean more weeks of waiting. I had made the same mistake with Wild by Cheryl Strayed.
Although I usually prefer to hold a physical book, the desire to sit and read has been lacking. Audiobooks and podcasts are my only reprieves from watching TV nonstop. I’m fortunate enough (read: privileged) to be able to work from home during this pandmenic. Most of the time, I’m simultaneously watching TV or listening to one of the multiple subscriptions via Spotify. Before stepping out this evening, I made a makeshift face mask using a blue bandana folded many times and held in place by hair ties that look like old-school landline telephone cords. I cued up the latest episode of Demetria L. Lucas’s Ratchet and Respectable, donned leggings, a dad hat and a fleece. As I descended the stairs, I got teary-eyed. I couldn’t believe I was going to The Outside.
I saw an even mix of closed and open shops. I hope that the ones that were closed aren’t permanently shuttered. I felt self-conscious wearing my makeshift mask, especially when I passed pedestrians who weren’t wearing any protection at all. I wanted to inquire of those wearing real masks where they got them. One lucky man had the coveted N95 mask. It’s incredible that I know how to spot one now. During the walk, the right lens of my glasses fogged up from the breath that escaped the mask. It was difficult to breathe.
I feel like I’ve been on punishment for something I didn’t do. Empathy for prisoners–especially those wrongly imprisoned–has skyrocketed. It felt good to be outside. I missed the solidness of pavement beneath my Chucks. These days my socked feet walk on my squeaky and uneven apartment floor. They’re only laced up when in sneakers for workouts. The days I don’t feel like jumping around with Shaun T, I put on a yoga, Barre or abs video. I open my windows to get air circulating, but nothing compares to actual wind on your face when you’re outside. I knew better than to remove the hat and mask to experience the sensation on my whole head. I walked passed the gym where I once took a free crossfit class, the laundrymat that always has out-of-order washers and dryers, a gas station I’ve never had use for, and the various bodegas I’ve patronized in my quest for a gallon of Poland Spring easy-pour gallon or fifty cent bags of Wise Cheez Doodles. I missed seeing and being out and about in my Bed-Stuy neighborhood.
When I returned to my brownstone, I checked my mailbox. One piece of junk mail. I unlocked the storm door then the two heavy metal doors that lead to the hallway. I sat on the staircase and reviewed, then posted the few shots I took during my walk. Trees, flowers, children’s imprints in the sidewalk. It was late evening and there was still light out when I left, even less when I returned. I sat so long on the steps, the motion-sensor lights turned off. The second time I began the trek to my third floor apartment. My sanctuary from the virus and my warden.